New Calgary Elementary Schools without Playgrounds: Shocked and Appalled

I am working on about 6 different blog posts right now, but I couldn’t let this issue go by without saying something. So I am leaving my drafts in the draft folder to tell you about this.

My husband brought this story to my attention when he heard about it on CBC Radio on the way home. Apparently there are a number of new elementary schools opening in Calgary this year. Yeah! Except…. They have no playgrounds. Yeah. An Elementary school without a playground? What??

I am Shocked and Appalled!

Here are the links to the CBC radio audio where my husband heard about this and to the original opinion piece in the Calgary Herald that sparked the spot on CBC radio.

http://www.cbc.ca/homestretch/2010/08/pay-to-play.html

http://www.calgaryherald.com/opinion/Nowhere+play/3443955/story.html

Here’s the thing. It isn’t bad enough that we have a high number of kids, young kids, who are obese. Or that many kids spend much of their time with ‘screen time’; preferring video games and the internet to playing outside. What is even worse then these things? That playground play at lunch and recess is one of the few times that school age kids get unstructured physical activity for much of the week.

Think about that for a minute. Parents, those lucky enough to afford it, are rushing to put their kids in soccer, dance, hockey, field hockey, basketball, track, swimming and a million other structured activities for play. Which is great for physical exercise and encourage teamwork and leadership skills. (Although, I might argue, can be a bit overkill for kids when every night of the week and all weekend long they are running from activity to activity. But whatev.)

But what about the value of unstructured play? Like running around with other kids and just playing. Making stuff up? Interacting with each other? Using their imaginations and their muscles? I expect my child’s elementary school to provide that opportunity. Yes, of course, as a parent I can take my kid to a playground in the evenings or on the weekend, but there is no guarantee there will be other kids to play with. And yeah, there is benefit to playing alone too, but really. School recess without a playground? My kid isn’t even school aged yet and this gets me all worked up.

What is the Alberta Government and the Calgary Board of Education doing? Do they not value healthy lifestyle and activity for our kids? I know budgets are tight, but I see a lot of waste and mismanagement in government. Surely we don’t need to make the kids pay for the lack of good government?

Yes, it is likely that at some point the parents of the community will raise enough money and give the kids a playground. The sky is not falling, the costs are just being passed down. Down to parents who already pay more and more for putting kids through school. But seriously? I don’t understand how a playground got cut out of the budget.

If you live in Calgary, I encourage you to tell the government and the CBE that you are not happy. You can tweet to the Alberta Government at @YourAlberta. You can give them feedback online . Or you can get all old school with it and write to your MLA. Go here to find out who your MLA is. You can contact the CBE by going to their website and e-mailing the board of trustees (Is that right? Is that who to send feedback too? Their website it darn confusing!)

Regardless of where you live.. what do you think? Would you be ticked if a school opened in your neighbourhood without a playground? Is this happening all over, or just in our crazy city?

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3 responses to “New Calgary Elementary Schools without Playgrounds: Shocked and Appalled

  1. Ted Flitton August 27, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    My name is Ted Flitton and I am the media representative for the Calgary Board of Education. I want to thank you for your post which I received last night. As you may know from the Homestretch piece, I provided information for their discussion. The CBE desperately wants playground equipment as well. They benefit not only students in our schools, entire communities and the health of our city. The unite communities, parents can meet and socialize and children play. We care very deeply about the health of children and we have a strong refocusing of our curriculum, school operations and culture around health and wellness. It is called Comprehensive School Health. Having playground equipment at schools is central to this focus.

    Unfortunately, as mentioned in the CBC piece, the province does not budget for playground equipment while building new schools. In addition, we are prevented from using our capital funding for playground equipment by government regulation. This is not new, yet we are thankful for all community members who work hard for children by fundraising. It is because of their excellent efforts that we have these structures at all.

    I applaud your effort to have Calgarians mobilize on this issue. It is imperative for the health of our children.

    • amoment2think August 27, 2010 at 6:04 pm

      Hi Ted,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I understand that the CBE is often caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to funding and government regulation. I agree that it is wonderful that community members step up to the plate. I just can’t believe it is even an issue. What is up with our provincial government?

      Do you happen to know if this is effecting other school boards outside of Alberta?

  2. janetlansbury August 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Kathleen, you’re awesome!

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