Calgary

Province commits $20M to build school playgrounds

The money will be available over the next four years to build playgrounds at elementary schools around Alberta.

Money will come in the form of $250K grants available to schools offering Kindergarten to Grade 6 classes

MLA Michael Connolly, left, Education Minister David Eggen and Premier Rachel Notley are joined by students on playground equipment Friday. Notley announced $20 million in funding over the next four years to build playgrounds at schools across the province. (Government of Alberta)

The province is committing $20 million over the next four years to build playgrounds at elementary schools around Alberta.

The funding will come in the form of $250,000 grants available to all new school construction projects offering kindergarten to Grade 6 classes, Premier Rachel Notley said Friday.

"This grant funding will go back to projects announced in 2014," she said. "New replacement schools offering K-6 programming will also be eligible if the school is being built on a new site without an already existing playground."

That means more than 50 previously announced schools are eligible for the grant  money.

Notley called playground construction a "fundamental quality of life issue."

"The fact of the matter is playgrounds provide a place for kids to explore and develop many skills," she said.

"More than that, playgrounds are a way to build and strengthen community. It's a time for parents to put their phones back in their pocket. It's a time for kids to play. It's a time for kids to meet each other and make friends. It's time for them, frankly, to have fun, and it's a time for parents to meet and develop that community."

Justin Murray, a parent and member of the Vista Heights School Council, said students need playgrounds to develop skills during breaks in class.

"Playgrounds are an essential part of all students' school experiences," he said. "Our children deserve safe, outdoor play areas that encourage engagement while they learn and develop their physical and social skills during free time and recess."

Fundraising will have to be done for projects costing more than $250,000.

With files from Colin Hall

now