This illustration gives an idea of the proposed layout for an outdoor classroom at Ponoka Elementary School.

PES playground committee kicks off fundraising campaign

They’ve only just started, but the Ponoka Elementary School (PES) Playground Committee has already raised $22,000 towards

They’ve only just started, but the Ponoka Elementary School (PES) Playground Committee has already raised $22,000 towards a new play, and ultimately a study area for the students, one which will have only a single equivalent in the whole country.

With the imminent move of PES students to the refurbished Diamond Willow Middle School, the students’ playgrounds are getting torn down. Most of them don’t meet safety standards anymore and will be removed. Two different playgrounds are able to be re-used but can only accommodate 75 kids, explained playground committee co-chairperson Layna Palechek.

She and Jen Bartley make up a two-person team who are dedicated to see a new playground for students that will also be accessible by students with physical disabilities. They want this playground to be a place for kids to have fun throughout the week.

“It’s critical to development and health and education,” said Palechek.

She feels that while most children are on the playground, others with wheelchairs or other hindrances are unable to join in on the fun. This new playground addresses that issue.

The ambitious plan doesn’t come cheap though, which is one of the reasons the Ponoka Rotary Club has jumped on board to help out with whatever grants they can.

“It’s considered a destination playground that youth or children from across the region can come to,” said Rotary president Cameron Chisholm of the proposal.

The first part of the project is to build a new playground with new and fun features including a 25 to 30 foot high sky walk, explained designer Pat Zelenak, of ParkWorks, the company hired to design the playgrounds. He says this will be the second park in Canada with this feature.

The committee, Zelenak and members of the Rotary Club fielded questions at PES Thursday, Nov. 20.

Phase two will bring an outdoor classroom to the courtyard at the new school with outdoor seating and gardens. For many years the centre courtyard was unused but Palechek sees this space as a great way of getting students outside to learn.

“The education aspect was exciting to develop,” said Zelenak.

Before grant funding, the playground phase is expected to cost $478,000 and the courtyard is expected to cost $547,000.

The committee has letters of support from the Town of Ponoka, Ponoka County, Lacombe/Ponoka MLA Rod Fox and Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins. They intend to fundraise and are looking at grant applications with regard to the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP).

CFEP provides grants of up to $125,000 in matching funds but Palechek says Fox has requested special consideration be given to this project to double the grant amount.

They have prepared a 54-page proposal that illustrates the new playground and classroom space.

For more information contact Palechek at 403-783-5633.


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