Request to school board regarding playgrounds

On October 26th, our PAC chair, Sally Connon, addressed the school board trustees during the public input session of the school board meeting to identify concerns with play equipment and outdoor supervision.
This has now gone to the educational services committee, which unfortunately is not open to the public. We will be following up with the committee to ensure that our concerns are acted on – their next meeting is November 8th. Note: the educational services committee is chaired by Roxanne Ricard.

At the board meeting, we gave the trustees the following letter:

October 26, 2010
The École Heather Park Elementary Parent Advisory Council has two major concerns that we wish to bring to the board’s attention:
•    the shortage of play equipment for students at École Heather Park Elementary, and the unused play structures at Austin Road and Springwood
•    the lack of resources for outside supervision, activities, and prep time

We respectfully request that the School District #57 Board consider the following questions:
•    What are your long term plans for accommodating play needs and safety concerns outdoors at École Heather Park Elementary?
•    How soon would you be able to bring the newer playgrounds from Austin Road and Springwood schools to the École Heather Park Elementary site?
•    What can we do together, as partners, to make this happen? We have concerned parents in our community who are engineers, contractors, consultants – what can we provide to help?

We would like to receive a response in a timely manner, and would welcome a board or district representative to speak further to this at our next scheduled general PAC meeting, on November 10th.

In support of our request, we would like to provide you with some background information.

As you will be aware, we are now the largest elementary school in your school district, with 689 students. Of these students, 428 are in Kindergarten to grade 5, 97 in grade 6, and 164 in grade 7. As of September 30, 2009, there were 316 K-5 students at Austin Road, and 137 K-5 students at Springwood Elementary.
Austin Road had two large play structures, swing sets, and other older play structures for the 316 students. The most recent play structure was installed in 2007. Springwood had a similar layout for 137 students, with the most recent play structure being installed in 2009. Both the new play structures should be moveable. École Heather Park Elementary had one new play structure, which was installed before school started, and some older metal structures. The Austin Road an Springwood play structures were funded by parents, while the new École Heather Park Elementary play structure was funded by the district – thank you.

To summarize, the 453 K-5 students at Austin Road and Springwood had 4 modern play structures available, as compared to the 1 modern play structure available to the 428 K-5 École Heather Park Elementary students.  This play structure is inadequate for the size of the school, given that the school grounds were never designed with this intended use. The next page shows pictures illustrating this situation.  (removed from web version)

Our recommendation is to relocate two playgrounds – one from Austin Road and one from Springwood to École Heather Park Elementary.  One playground from each school is built by Henderson and installed to facilitate relocation, while still CSA approved.  These playgrounds are readily available and underutilized. 
Our Playground Working Group has surveyed the surrounding neighbourhoods of the closed Austin Road and Springwood school sites to assess community reaction to the transfer of playgrounds to École Heather Park Elementary, conducting 19 surveys of homes surrounding Austin Road, and 11 surveys of homes near Springwood.  This represents almost all of the homes located adjacent to the two closed schools.  Ninety (90%) percent of the respondents supported moving one of the existing play structures to the École Heather Park Elementary school site.

As part of our research into alternative solutions, we have consulted with the school administration as to options such as staggered recess and lunch breaks. Unfortunately, this option – which could make this huge school feel little – has turned out to be impossible to put into practice, given issues such as scheduling blocks for gym time, bus schedules, the interruption of the bell, and requirements for teacher preparation time.

Our further recommendation is that you ask your senior administrators to look at the shortage of supervisory and prep-time staff. We had been assured that resources were going to be plentiful in this big school, but the resources provided to date have yet to be sufficient.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We appreciate the attention you have paid to this school to date, and realize the challenge we all face. Please consider the École Heather Park Elementary School PAC a partner in this matter.


Sally Connon
École Heather Park Elementary PAC Chair