Chilliwack middle schoolers will soon have more places to socialize and stay active on campus.
Four middle schools will receive a $75,000 bonus for capital costs for the creation of play structure areas, for a total of $300,000. The decision was made Tuesday night, after a brief report from superintendent Evelyn Novak. The middle schools receiving the funds are A.D. Rundle, Vedder, Chilliwack and Mount Slesse. Rosedale middle school is already equipped with several play structures suitable for various ages.
“I don’t think we can underestimate the value of play, and time in fresh air,” said board chair Paul McManus. “I think it’s critical.”
"I don't think we can underestimate the value of play" says board chair Paul McManus, speaking in favour of play structures in middle schools.
— Jessica Peters (@CHWKcommunity) December 6, 2017
Novak said the intent of the funding initiative is to take the burden off of Parent Advisory Councils, which are often overwhelmed with fundraising for new playgrounds. Also, Chilliwack’s middle schools will welcome Grade 6s next September, Novak said. With the lowering of the middle school age, play structures have been identified by parents and staff as a priority.
But Trustee Heather Maahs, the sole vote against the funding, said there are more important things to worry about. She questioned how many students ages 12 to 14 would actually use a play structure.
“If we’re going to spend $75,000 on each of our middle schools I would be much more inclined to see it go to literacy initiatives or libraries,” she said.
“We’re actually looking at play structures that are specifically for adolescents,” Novak explained. That could mean exercise circuits that could work in conjunction with phys ed classes, or climbing walls and rungs with a degree of difficulty, and other higher level outdoor fitness areas that work areas like core muscles.
In addition, the areas will provide an additional area for students to gather and socialize, she said.
“It’s not just an area to play on,” Novak said. “It’s a social area where kids can gather, and visit. I’m not saying this is going to be for all, but this is going to be an option.”
Middle schools will also have a 15-minute recess starting in September 2018, to encourage breaks, exercise, and good health. Middle schools are closed campuses, and students are required to stay on the grounds during breaks, including recess and lunch.
It will be up to each school administration and their PAC to decide what their play areas will look like, and whether to fundraise more. The installation will be handled by district staff.
Candy Ross, a parent on the playground committee at Chilliwack middle school, said Wednesday that the funds are a “much-welcomed offer from the district.”
“I think there is a realization that as middle schools switch to a younger, more elementary style of model, that play structures are a necessity for the children,” she added.
Additionally, middle school PACs are not the fundraising entities that elementary school PACs are, Ross said.
“I feel they (the board and staff) realize that parents reach a kind of burnout from fundraisers by this stage and any effort will be waning, if not lost,” she said. “This money will also help immensely as the middle school PACs apply for capital grants, as most applications require an existing budget to contribute or to match funds that are already in place.”