by Tristan Turner
At Council’s last meeting before summer recess, Leah Elzinga, President of the Morinville Public Elementary School (MPES) Parent Fundraising Association, made a presentation on proposed new playground equipment to meet the needs of the rapidly growing school, and made a financial request of Council to help support the project. While council confirmed no funding at the meeting, they unanimously supported a motion to have Administration investigate ways the Town might be able to financially support the new equipment and return that information for Council’s August meeting.
Elzinga began her presentation explaining the school’s rationale for pursuing the purchase of new equipment, reminding Council that three years ago about a third of the park’s equipment was removed after one of its older wooden structures was deemed no longer usable. This equipment was removed with a financial plan to replace it with new equipment, but these plans were interrupted after the school changed hands following the province’s decision to transfer the school from Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools to a public school operated by the Sturgeon School Division. Following the school board change, it was expected that there would be a reduction of the total students attending the school, but in its first year of operation Morinville Public had nearly 300 students, with approximately 420 students this year and up to 520 students expected to attend next year. The current equipment is suited to hold about one hundred students.
Elzinga told Council the playground is important to her group and that the playground has been the priority since the MPES Parent Fundraising Association was formed. While it is a priority for the school, Elzinga also believes it is of community importance. “The minute that the buzzer sounds at 3 p.m., it’s no longer the Morinville Public School playground; it’s the community’s playground,” she said. “It’s just your neighbourhood park. If you are a kid anywhere North of Main Street and west of The Lakes, this is your only park.” Elzinga went on to say the proposed playground isn’t just a piece of school equipment; its a hub for the community, one she felt her group had a responsibility to make the best that it can be.
The playground is proposed to have three phases. Phase One will address what the group sees as a dire lack of equipment by adding additional long-lasting traditional pieces while including pieces for children with sensory disabilities. The Second Phase will see smaller equipment on the playground replaced with newer equipment focused on sensory learning (including musical instruments). Phase Three is focused on adding visual improvements to the park, including walking paths, landscaping/flowers and outdoor classroom equipment.
The school will need to achieve their goal of $70,000 by January of 2015 in order to obtain matching grants. Construction is estimated to begin Summer 2015. Elzinga asked council to set aside $30,000 to assist in funding this phase of the project.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe made a motion at the meeting to direct Administration to return to the August Council meeting with information how Council might be able to financially assist the project. Dafoe’s motion passed unanimously.