British Columbia

Playground funding for B.C. schools planned, minister says

The days of bake sales and coupon-book fundraisers for school playground equipment could soon be over, according to British Columbia’s education minister.

School playgrounds can require tens of thousands and years of parent fundraising campaigns

Currently, new school playgrounds are government-funded for but not playgrounds for older buildings or schools that are over capacity and need a second one, says Education Minister Rob Fleming. (Associated Press)

The need for bake sales and coupon-book fundraisers for school playground equipment could soon be over, according to British Columbia's education minister.

The B.C. government is reviewing how school playgrounds are funded and built with the aim of funding replacements and upgrades, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, from the provincial education budget.

"That's a lot of bake sales; that is agonizing," B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

"It just takes years and years and years and it's quite honestly beyond the capacity of a lot of schools in the province of B.C.," Fleming said. "Not every school is going to have large donors available from local small business."

Sheryl Roodenberg, an executive member of the PAC at Marigold Elementary School in Victoria, said a playground has been an ongoing fundraising priority since her daughter was in kindergarten nine years ago.

"It was always a goal for Marigold school, putting in a new playground and replacing the playground from the early 80s. And it's been an ongoing large project."

Galiano Community School campaigned to win a BCAA contest that replaced its broken, rusted and splintered playground equipment, because it could not raise the money locally. (Galiano Playground/Facebook)

Marigold school finally installed the first of two playgrounds last spring.

At Galiano Community School, parents and students campaigned for online votes to win a new playground in a B.C. Automobile Association (BCAA) contest earlier this year because the cost of replacement was beyond their ability to raise funds on the island of about 1,250 residents. 

The government is currently consulting parent groups, including the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (DPAC) and school districts about details of an ongoing capital fund in the education budget that would be administered by individual school districts, he said. (The NDP promised to fund school playground equipment in its 2017 election platform.)

A similar fund existed for a short period of time under the previous B.C. Liberal government and was budgeted for about $4 million annually before its cancellation, Fleming said.

'We know there is demand'

"So we know that there is need out there. We know there is demand," he said.

Under current government funding rules, playgrounds are included at new schools but not older buildings. In fast-growing districts such as Surrey and Sooke, there's no public funding to add a second playground at overcrowded schools.

If approved, Fleming said the playground fund will be included in the government's February 2018 budget, he said.