Playground for Seaside Park Elementary slated for end of school year

Students at Seaside Park Elementary School in Saint John are hoping to trade in a decommissioned city park for their own fully accessible playground by the end of the school year.

Group raising money for playground is two-thirds of the way to its $250,000 goal

Students, staff and parents at Seaside Park Elementary School, along with Saint John Mayor Don Darling, were celebrating their $50,000 Aviva win this week. (Submitted by Charlene Thompson)

Students at Seaside Park Elementary School in west Saint John are hoping to trade in a decommissioned city park for their own fully accessible playground by the end of the school year.

That's large in part thanks to the fundraising efforts of a group of parents that secured more than $163,000 in funding, including a $50,000 donation from the Aviva Community Fund.

The committee tasked with the project is about two-thirds of the way to its $250,000 goal, but Charlene Thompson, a member of the group, said it has raised enough money to go to tender soon.

"We started with $80,000 from the province and we have been working hard to build on that," Thompson told Information Morning Saint John.

"Hopefully, we can order the equipment in January … we would love to have it installed before the end of the year. Will that happen? I don't know. It all depends on timing with the district and how quickly they can get that tender out."

The former Havelock Elementary School was torn down last month to make way for a new, accessible playground for Seaside Park Elementary. (Sarah Trainor/CBC)

Thompson said with four students using wheelchairs at the school, a fully accessible structure is a necessity, but it adds an extra expense.

"We have to look at surfacing for that, so they can get on and off the structure … that will add about $5,000 to the quote," she said.

"People have no idea [of] the expense. We don't want to cut too many corners because we don't want the structure to be cheap. We want good quality equipment, so we want to be careful, we don't want to rush our decision."

Thompson said the committee has been looking at an estimate of about $182,000, plus about $40,000 for installation.

"There are a few pieces of equipment we could take off and install at a later date," she said.

Events like last month's Christmas bazaar at the school have raised over $5,000 for the playground. (Seaside Park Elementary School "Community" Playground)

In the meantime, the group will continue to raise money, and students will find other outlets to burn off energy.

The gym, which opened a few weeks ago, should keep them busy on cold days.

And when the weather is nice, they cross the street to play at the decommissioned Seaside Park

Thompson said neither option is ideal for the 482 children at the new school, itself a $20 million project that just opened this year.

"The playground is very small and out of date, and actually will be removed once we have our playground installed," she said.

Expects new dynamic

"I think [the new playground] will change the dynamic extremely, especially for the teachers who are trying to keep the students entertained. They're doing a great job and I'm sure it's going to help matters."

Aside from the "big boost" from Aviva, the City of Saint John also kicked in $15,000, the New Brunswick Children's Foundation $7,000, and the playground committee's own events raised over $5,000.

Those events included a Christmas bazaar, bake sale and pajama day.

Donations also came in from Kiwanis Club of Saint John, Lancaster Kiwanis, and Walmart, among other agencies.

With files from Information Morning Saint John