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Holly Elementary among 25 B.C. schools receiving $5M for new playgrounds

iStock-473313240-holly-playground.jpgHolly Elementary is one of 25 B.C. schools receiving a share of $5 million in new playground funding from the province's Playground Equipment Program (PEP). (Image via iStock)

The B.C. government is ensuring students at Holly Elementary will soon have a new, safe and accessible playground, thanks to a new investment of $195,000 from the province’s Playground Equipment Program (PEP).

Holly is among 25 elementary schools across B.C. receiving a total of $5 million in funding for 25 new playgrounds provincewide, expected to be designed, built and installed over the next year. The program significantly reduces parent-led fundraising that was previously needed to help build playgrounds.

“Our PACs do an amazing job fundraising for the needs of their schools, but sometimes expensive projects like new playgrounds are financially out of reach,” said Laurie Larsen, chair of the Surrey Board of Education. “This funding means a lot to the Holly community as it relieves the fundraising burden and ensures that students and families at the school and in the neighbourhood will have a safe, accessible place for children to play for many years to come.”

Holly Elementary principal Lauretta Fenrick said the funding was a great surprise for her school and was met with feverish excitement from students of all grades.

“I announced it over the PA that we were getting a new playground and the entire school was screaming, they are so excited,” said Fenrick. “Part of our current playground is already on its last legs and was being removed regardless in July – we would’ve had a big empty hole in the ground. This is huge for us to get a playground in its place in the fall.”

In recent years, funding from PEP has supported new playgrounds at several Surrey elementary schools, Kirkbride, École Riverdale, Sullivan, Senator Reid and T.E. Scott elementaries. Playgrounds offer numerous benefits for physical, mental and emotional health and promote physical activity, self expression, conflict-resolution skills, learning opportunities, anxiety reduction, improved focus, increased attention span and enhanced gross-motor, social, emotional and sensory development.

In addition to the health benefits, Fenrick said a new playground is particularly important socially to the Holly community because many students don’t have other play spaces at home or in the neighbourhood.

“All of the Holly children live in apartments, none of them have backyards or play structures in their house, and even the apartment buildings nearby only have grass fields but not playgrounds,” she said. “This playground will be used year-round throughout the summer, over spring break, after school – it’s not just used for school time, and I think the Ministry understands that school playgrounds are used by the community. And in this context, it’s even more so.

“Schools like Holly need to be community places of the neighbourhood, and a playground is something that creates that hub where families can come together.”

The Holly playground is expected to open later this fall. Fenrick said the school is currently working with Habitat Systems on some designs and is seeking student input on what they’d like to see in their brand new playground.

“Our plan is to have a number of different pieces or a few different structures and have the kids make suggestions and do some voting,” she said. “The student voice is important – it’s their playground and they need to have some say in what it looks like.

“The fact that it’s also an accessible playground opens up opportunities to speak with our students about what we can do to make sure all friends can play. We can continue to open up those conversations on why everybody needs a place to play.”

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