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Outdoor active play vital for students, Coquitlam school board chair says as B.C. spends $5M on playgrounds

At R.C. MacDonald Elementary today (April 29), a budgetary promise was unveiled to fund 30 new playgrounds in 24 school districts across B.C.
R.C. MacDonald playground in Coquitlam
SD43 board of education chair Michael Thomas (Port Coquitlam) asks R.C. MacDonald Elementary students in Coquitlam how they like their new playground. Coquitlam–Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson (centre) waits for their response.

B.C.’s education and child care minister used a Coquitlam elementary school as a backdrop to reaffirm a budgetary promise.

And she brought the province’s finance minister — and the MLA for Coquitlam–Maillardville — to join her for the funding announcement.

Ministers Jennifer Whiteside and Selina Robinson were at R.C. MacDonald Elementary this morning (April 29) to highlight B.C.’s commitment to school playgrounds.

It’s the fifth year for the Playground Equipment Program (PEP), with $5 million being spent in 2022 for 30 new playgrounds.

In total, 24 school districts around the province, including SD43, will get $165,000 each to design, build and install accessible playgrounds over the next year.

The government has sunk $30 million into PEP since it started in 2018, providing money to 231 schools and their Parent Advisory Councils (PAC).

The R.C. MacDonald playground, which is built into the forest and includes a rubber surface, zip line and spinning sphere, is part of the 2021 intake.

Elaine Foo, president of R.C. MacDonald’s PAC, told reporters at the news conference that her group, like other PACs, have a hard time fundraising.

Currently, the elementary school has 160 students, six of whom took the microphone to talk about the benefits of the updated play equipment.

Its previous playground was not accessible and in bad need of repair, said Theresa Roberts, who took over as R.C. MacDonald’s principal four years ago.

The new play area was created with Habitat Systems, and installed by SD43’s maintenance team, she told the crowd of staff, teachers and parents.

“Outdoor active play is vital for the well being of our students,” said Michael Thomas, SD43’s board of education chairperson, adding Minnekhada Middle School in Port Coquitlam is also a PEP recipient.

Asked by the Tri-City News about the provincial government’s capital investment for new schools — as Tri-City trustees last month voted to withdraw $25 million from operations to build a new joint middle/high school on Burke Mountain — Whiteside reiterated notes from the government’s news release.

Budget 2022 includes $3.1 billion for new and improved schools in B.C. over the next three years, she said.

And since 2017, the province has spent $2.7 billion on school capital projects, including $1 billion to add 16,300 student seats.