An Arthur parent has challenged an UGDSB school trustee’s opinion that playgrounds are not worth the effort to fundraise for and maintain.
During her presentation to Wellington North council Monday afternoon, Crystal VanGerven, who has been a driving force behind fundraising for two new playgrounds at Arthur Public School, said she felt it was necessary to “shed light” on what their school’s parent council has accomplished over the last year.
The group’s fundraising began after the school’s old equipment was deemed unsafe during an annual inspection and removed.
“I assure you all that the funds are going to be used to meet the needs of our students, their mental health during recess and gym time, and outside learning,” said VanGerven, during the meeting.
During a council meeting in May, UGDSB trustee Robin Ross shared that she believes playgrounds are “very detrimental economically” and asked council to consider spending the money elsewhere, despite community efforts.
“Small schools around here can fundraise for decades and not get enough money to put in a playground,” said Ross, during the May meeting. “So, if you think about it, (we’re spending) all this money for very pretty metal posts cemented into the ground.”
Partnering with local business Musashi Auto, which has agreed to donate $90,000, VanGerven has collected an additional $145,000 for the playground.
This portion of funds is nearly half of their fundraising goal of $400,000 and will go towards a junior/intermediate playground to be installed later this year, once VanGerven gets the final approval.
“I just hope that I can count on council to support us with various projects to help make students’ time at school fun and provide a constructive outlet of energy between classes so they can all succeed,” said VanGerven, during the meeting.
Council approved taxpayer-funded grants totalling $17,500 toward new playgrounds at both schools earlier this year.
Rather than invest in a playground, Ross believes the money should go towards individual sporting equipment, team memberships, field trips, or special activities like a “drone camp.”
However, Ross later clarified that even her own son is opposed to her stance because he “wants to play.”
“Is it wrong to support playgrounds? No. Kids love them and kids will always want to be on them,” said Ross. “I’m just asking people to think is there another way we can spend this money that maybe does more because we have very finite resources.”
According to VanGerven, the parent council invested in recess equipment this year but the principal said there needs to be more supervision outside for it to be used safely.
VanGerven also corrected Ross’ statement that students are “trespassing” if they are on school property past 3:15.
Following her presentation, Coun. Sherry Burke shared her support for VanGerven’s fundraising efforts and the future playgrounds.
“Thank you for your hard work and clarification over some comments that were perhaps misguided and shared to council previously,” said Burke. “Congratulations on your fundraising efforts (and) for reaching the next steps for Arthur P.S.”
Coun. Steve McCabe also shared his support for the playground.
“It takes a lot of dedication to get that funding from the community so job well done,” said McCabe.
By Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jul 11, 2023