Delta school board trustee Nick Kanakos is hoping the district and city will be able to come up with a better way to fund playground replacements, after years of putting it on parent groups to come up with the bulk of the money.
“What has happened in the last little while in which the replacement of playgrounds has fallen onto parent advisory councils?” Kanakos said. “That was not their purpose.”
The purpose of PACs, Kanakos said, was to advise the principal on parent concerns and create a sense of community for parents at the school. Fundraising was secondary, he continued, but has now become a major part of PAC activities, while more and more playgrounds fall into disrepair.
“There are other demands for fundraising, for field trips, for lunch programs … that is far more important than having PACs forced to be seeking those kinds of funds [for playgrounds],” Kanakos said.
During the school board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, Kanakos put forward a notice of motion to have district staff look into different options for playground replacement strategies in order to take the burden away from parents.
These could include soliciting private and corporate donations, or creating a new partnership between the district and the city.
The city’s cost-share grant is what has been in use for the last decade. Currently, Delta will share the cost of replacing playground up to $35,000, provided the PAC can raise the same amount of money or more. That is how playgrounds at Chalmers, Gray and Sunshine Hills elementary schools have recently been replaced.
However, the trustees argued, this approach creates inequities for students in different parts of Delta, with new playgrounds now costing anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000.
“It may be easy for some areas, such as South Delta or perhaps Sunshine Hills, to reach that [level of fundraising],” Kanakos said. “But other areas in the north regions of our municipality can’t meet that threshold.”
Board chair Laura Dixon agreed.
“There’s an equity issue for the district if, over time, some schools were able to reach that $35,000 funding threshold — or perhaps they could even exceed it, and we have some schools that simply weren’t able to meet that threshold,” Dixon said.
“So we’ve had some schools that have watched other schools be able to go forward through Herculean fundraising tasks,” she continued. “It takes parents’ eyes off of what they want to be doing, which is engaging around the learning and their success of the students in the school.”
Trustees Dale Saip, Bruce Reid and Rhiannon Bennett also spoke in favour of the plan to review funding options. Saip said there needed to be a comprehensive parks and recreation plan for the city and the district, while Reid said the district also needed to look at this from a provincial perspective.
Bennett said the report needed to be sure to include the perspectives of the PACs, who have been working on these playground replacements for the last 10 years.
All trustees voted to direct staff to create a report to look at different ways to fund playground replacements across the district.