Bernard elementary PAC member Deana Reid is hoping the school will be able to raise enough funds to purchase a new playground by September 2012.

Parents group rallies for new playground

If Bernard elementary can’t raise a minimum of $60,000 in a year, its intermediate students will be out a playground.

If Bernard elementary can’t raise a minimum of $60,000 in a year, its intermediate students will be out a playground.

Last year the school district deemed the wood-structure playground that’s been at the school for more than 20 years unfit. It’s falling apart, the chemically treated wood is rotting and the structure has wasp nests all throughout.

The playground is scheduled for removal next summer.

“What used to be fine 20 years ago, is not fine anymore,” said Deana Reid, vice-president of the school’s parent advisory council and head of the playground fundraising committee. “It’s just not deemed fit anymore.”

Playgrounds over the last 10 or so years have evolved from wood structures to bright plastic alternatives that are deemed safer, more environmentally sound, don’t run the risk of splinters or rot, and are easier to maintain.

They’re also expensive.

A playground comparable in size to the one Bernard currently has runs upwards of $100,000.

PACs are responsible for raising funds for playgrounds as playgrounds do not fall within district funding parameters.

So far, Bernard’s PAC has raised $16,000.

“Fundraising has been a challenge,” said Reid.

Bernard elementary is an inner-city school with a high transient and high aboriginal population. Many of its families are low income and don’t have the extra funds to help support a new playground.

And yet, that playground is the only source of non-instructional play for the majority of Bernard’s student population.

“Because we are an inner-city school, most of these kids do not belong to any extracurricular activities outside of school; they can’t afford it,” said Reid. “After school, and during recess and lunch is the only opportunity for a lot of these kids to play, to be a part of a cohesive group with their friends.”

Research has shown that play is an essential part of a child’s development. It contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children. It builds social skills, improves language development and stimulates creativity and imagination.

“Playgrounds are so extremely important for kids,” said Reid. “It’s a place for kids to create their own worlds, to pretend, to meet their friends, to hang off the monkey bars. It is an integral part of the school.”

Without a playground, “we will have a lot of very bored kids,” said Reid. “If they’re not out here running around, burning off energy, that’s going to filter down into their classrooms, they’re going to be disruptive. These kids need that non-instructional play … they need to be able to go out and just be kids.”

The PAC has held coin drives, bottle drives, raffles, dinners and dances and will continue to do so over the next year. But it’s also looking to the larger community for assistance.

“Our kids need a playground,” said Reid.

Bernard elementary has set up an account with Chilliwack Bottle Depot on Trethewey Ave. Anyone wanting to donate used bottles to the cause just need to notify the attendant before unloading the bottles.

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