As you may or may not have heard, our UHE playground has been closed. We know that there are a lot of rumors flying around, as well as a lot of uncertainty. Please take a few minutes to read the whole story. You will see that while there is some short term not great news, the overall picture is very positive.
Last week, an assessment was done of the playground, deeming it unsafe for use. On Wednesday, a fence was placed around the structures, and the children were informed that they could no longer use it. On Friday at the PAC meeting, Principal Froese informed parents that the structure had been condemned and would be removed on Wednesday, May 30. Since then, PAC has been in close communication with the VSB, and has found them to be very open in their communication and approach, and we are committed to working with them to come up with the best solution possible. We see the events that have unfolded as a great opportunity for our school, and one that we hope you will consider getting more involved with.
This morning Doug McClary, Manager of Maintenance and Construction, VSB, and a professional engineer visited UHE to determine the status of the playground, and to see if anything could be done to save the structures. While he had left by the time PAC arrived, we had the opportunity to meet with Geoff Pearmain, the Grounds Foreman for the VSB. He was very informative and open about the findings and the process. He informed us that Doug and his team had found that certain components of the structures were what they call “Type A hazards”, or hazards that could result in life threatening injuries. Specifically, these hazards are: the bridge and slide, as well as the section where kids hold on and “zip” across to a nearby platform. These sections will need to be removed, and until this is done, the remainder of the playground (including the highest part of the structure, as well as the toadstools and monkey bars) cannot be reopened. For this reason, the damaged sections of the playground will be removed on Wednesday, May 30, with the rest of the playground reopening on Monday.
This however, is a short term solution, as the whole playground was poorly constructed and the company that installed it went out of business shortly after it was installed in approximately 2006. Frequent repairs have been made over the years, but these repairs are increasingly challenging as the necessary parts for this now out of business structure are hard to find, and, according to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), playground structures in schools need to be repaired using pieces manufactured by the company that made the playground. This of course, is no longer possible now that the company has gone out of business. As a result, VSB has decided that the rest of the playground will need to be removed this summer. That is the bad news, but please read on for the good news.
The current BC government is looking to fund playgrounds, and each fiscal year (July 1- June 30) asks each district to nominate a school to get a new playground. According to the VSB, UHE would be first on this list to be nominated in the new fiscal year (i.e., after July 1) to receive provincial funding for a brand new playground. While the processes taken by the BC government is not fully known by VSB (understandably as it is outside their domain), they did strongly recommend that we go ahead with deciding exactly want, and so if/when we get selected for the playground, we have all our documentation, including a quote and our specs ready to go. Geoff spent considerable time speaking with us about which companies to reach out to, as well as what to consider. We (UHE PAC) are forming a committee of interested parents asap (getting significant input from teachers and school staff such as the individuals who help our students with special needs) to move quickly with contacting the various companies that VSB recommends to get quotes, visit other schools to see aspects that we like, solicit input from key stakeholders. We want to make sure that we areas informed as possible, and are collaborative and transparent in our approach, while also moving the process forward in a timely and efficient manner (so as not to miss out on this huge opportunity). If anyone is interested in being on this committee, please let us know asap. PAC can always be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
While all of us would prefer it if the existing playground could remain open and usable by our children, we are also in agreement with the VSB that we do not want our children playing on a structure that is unsafe. It is unfortunate that the existing structure will be removed this summer, but it is exciting that UHE will first on the list of recommended schools within the district to received playground funding from the provincial government (hopefully within the July 2018/June 2019 fiscal year). It is going to take significant effort on our part to solicit input for a new playground from relevant stakeholders, explore options for playgrounds by visiting other schools, obtain quotations and options from VSB-approved vendors, and create a proposal to submit through the VSB to the province as early as this July. What a great opportunity for you to get involved in your child’s school. Please contact us at if you are interested in being on a committee that works collaboratively with parents, teachers, staff, VSB and other stakeholders to make this happen. In addition, depending on what choices we make regarding the playground (for example, there are two ground covers that are officially wheelchair accessible, but one is MUCH more accessible, but is also about $80-100K more expensive), we may still need to raise additional funds for the playground.
We realize that this is a lot for you, and for your children to digest. Please feel free to reach out with any questions, concerns or suggestions that you have. In addition to reaching out directly to PAC (email@example.com), Aaron Davis, Director of Instruction at VSB has been very open and transparent in his assistance on this issue, and is happy to hear from parents who have additional concerns or questions. We look forward to continued engagement and collaboration with the VSB towards the common goal of ensuring that UHE children have a safe playground as soon as possible.
Jen McCutcheon, PAC Chair 2017/18