Province pitches in $75,000 for playground
Okotoks: Good Shepherd School now ready to get started on $200,000 project
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Friday, Feb 01, 2013 06:00 am
Premier Alison Redford announced $75,000 in grant funding for an Okotoks school’s playground Feb. 1 and said Albertans can expect more school announcements in the upcoming budget, despite the tough fiscal times.
Redford toured Good Shepherd School, listening in on student presentations, visiting classrooms and handing out books to students before handing over a cheque to help upgrade the school’s 22-year-old playground.
The grant comes from the Province’s lottery fund and Redford said the fund will continue to be available to schools looking to make improvements.
Good Shepherd principal Wayne Lorenz said the money was needed to build the much larger playground they have planned.
The current playground is used by around 300 Kindergarten to Grade 2 students during recess, lunch and before and after school.
“It wasn’t built for this many kids,” Lorenz said.
The school has two newer playgrounds for older students, however, Lorenz said the playground being replaced is the original one built with the school.
“Its really busy,” he said of the playground, adding supervisors need to keep a close eye on the students when it gets crowded.
The money will also be used to create a playground accessible to everyone, including those in wheelchairs, Lorenz said. The surrounding field will also be leveled and a mini-soccer field created.
The school council and parents raised $125,000 towards the project. He said they hoped to receive a matching grant from the government. With approximately $50,000 less than expected, he said a climbing structure will likely be cut out of the project, but said without the government grant the playground would not have gone ahead.
However, the biggest space crunch the school is facing is inside. The school has 796 students and is at capacity. All Catholic schools in Okotoks are facing the same problem with a growing number of students and rapidly declining places to put them.
Redford said there will be capital funding announcements when the budget is unveiled March 7, despite criticism from the Wildrose Party and a looming $6 billion deficit.
“We are not going to back away from our commitment to invest in families in communities and schools are fundamental to that,” Redford said.
The Premier again stated her government will borrow money to finance priority projects if needed.
“We are building schools and we’re going to have a long-term plan to pay it back,” Redford said.
Alberta needs new schools Redford said, but said she couldn’t say where Okotoks sits on the priority list for school projects.
She said she is aware of Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools’ need for a new Kindergarten to Grade 9 school, which is slated for the Davisburg area.
“I was talking to the superintendent of schools today and he told me he can’t wait six years for a new school and he is absolutely right,” Redford said. “It’s fine to say we won’t build a school this year, but just wait six years and we will build the best school ever. If you need a school next year, it’s really not a solution.”
She said Education Minister Jeff Johnson is working with school boards to determine the needs of each area. Despite the declining Provincial revenues Redford said the schools identified as priorities will be built.
“Whatever our capital plans were prior to this difficult fiscal climate, we are committed to continuing with those capital plans,” she said.
Schools can also continue to apply for grant funding for playgrounds, Redford said.
“To be able to make sure kids are learning the social skills they need to is critical,” she said. “We are continuing to support playgrounds. It is something we believe is fundamental.”