Students returning to school this fall will have something to celebrate at St. Alphonsus Catholic School and Delton Public School, with long overdue replacements and upgrades making the playgrounds safer.
At St. Alphonsus, children returned to school on Aug. 13 and were treated to a pancake breakfast and ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of their new playground. For this school, the playground’s opening is the culmination of a long struggle. The school did not have the $400,000 required for renewal. St. Alphonsus School is on Edmonton Catholic school district property, meaning it does not qualify for any City of Edmonton incentives or funding. However, the need for a new, safer environment was strong.
The existing sand floor posed a serious hazard, since sand harbours dangerous items such as spent needles. Kim Street, founder of the Friends of St. Alphonsus Society, said, “We pulled a machete out of the sand last year. Every morning the janitor, Jacob Tesfa, had to rake the sand. We got rid of that sand, and retired his rake [at the ribbon-cutting celebration]. He was so happy.”
Monday’s celebration at St. Alphonsus was a truly joyous occasion. Street does not live in the neighbourhood, and none of her children attend the school. In fact, the majority of the members of the society’s board don’t live in the community. Street said, “This [project] is what makes [Edmonton] the City of Champions. Never mind sports. Everyone came together to build this playground.”
At first, prospects for renewal were bleak. When Street, a professional fundraiser and grant writer, learned of St. Alphonsus’ need, she decided to work for free. The first year of fundraising saw a lot of effort with disappointing results. However, after the formation of the Friends of St. Alphonsus Society, nine different schools came on board to help. Word spread and, Street said, “Money started to flow.”
Amazingly, the project received more than money. Many of the offerings were donations in kind by local businesses. Playworks, a playground supplier, partnered with the project and completed the $94,000 construction project at no charge. Donations in kind continued to roll in, with several companies providing fencing, landscaping, concrete, and much more. “It was an amazing experience,” said Street, “Those people had faith in us.”
As part of the Edmonton Public school district, Delton School had the same safety issues, but different resources available for renewal and upgrading. Catherine Kuehne, communications advisor for the City of Edmonton, explained that a playground inspector checked the playground and deemed it unsafe. The protective barriers were removed when the City added its finishing touches and the playground is ready for children to enjoy it.
Delton’s old playground had wooden materials, which had surpassed their 20-year life span. It also had a sand floor. For public schools like Delton, any changes in the playground are covered by the school, but maintained by the City of Edmonton. The price tag was $400,000.
Kuehne said, “I’m sure the children are looking forward to getting back on the playground before school starts and when they return in September.”
St. Alphonsus School
11624 81 St
Friends of St. Alphonsus Society
12126 89 St
Featured Image: St. Alphonsus playground before renewal. | Supplied by Friends of St. Alphonsus Society