New $520K inclusive playground for Captain John Palliser School

It's taken three years of hard work by the Captain John Palliser School parents' association to come up with a plan for a new playground and raise most of the money needed to build it.

Now parents can see the light at the end of the tunnel as they edge closer to their $520,000 goal that will see their dream for the students of the school in Brentwood become a reality.

The group is just $15,330 shy of its target for a new inclusive playground at the school on Northmount Drive Northwest and are hoping a virtual silent auction will put them over the top.

"We're finally at the point, we actually submitted our equipment order last night," said Lindsay Ogden, the co-chair of the playground committee. "The equipment is on the way so now we just have to make sure that the money's in the bank."

New playgrounds and outdoor gardens are not funded by Alberta Education, the Calgary Board of Education or the school, so the entire funding for the project fell on the parents' association.

Melisa Brown was tasked with applying for grants, which currently account for 69 per cent of their fundraising efforts, and says it wasn't easy being constantly rejected.

"Don't contact us, we'll contact you. There's no phone numbers, no email addresses," recounted Brown. "There are some that you would contact the company directly and talk to somebody, but those are few and far between so it's very impersonal just due to the number of applications they get.

"We were told you (would) get about 10 per cent of (the grants you apply for) when you do it, but we found it's not even that high."

Ogden says the community stepped up to help finance the new playground through various initiatives, including bottle drives, to the tune of $119,000.

"We hear stories, you know, I went to CJP 40 years ago or we grew up in this neighborhood and my kids attended, now my grandkids are at CJP," said Ogden. "It's an old school with a lot of history and people are really excited for us to keep it going."

"Thanks to community support and generous contributions from primary funding organizations, the Allardyce Bower Foundation, the Government of Alberta and Parks Foundation Calgary, as well as sponsors Montessori Alternative Public School Society, Pre-Kindergarten Educational Services, Mini Dig and BDI Play Designs, over 95 per cent of this project has been funded," said the parents' association in a statement.

The gravel at the old playground will be removed along with all the play structures. The new surface will be made of rubber to make it easier for children with mobility issues to play.

"We've done really fun things like we'll have a lower and a higher monkey bar right next to each other," said Ogden. "So the bigger kids and the little kids can be racing on the monkey bars, or we can have different students with different abilities, testing their limits on the lower one and working towards getting to the bigger one."

Brown says parents realize the importance of a safe play environment for their children that benefits their mental health.

"It releases a lot of energy for them, they get to run around, burn off energy," said Brown. "It's an outlet, they use their imaginations and then after that they hopefully have burned off enough energy that they can sit in the classroom and focus."

There will also be some landscaping just south of the playground where students can learn outdoors all year around.

"We'll have enough seating that a full class will be able to sit comfortably," said Ogden. "The teacher will be able to be out there learning from the land and connecting with that, which is really exciting for the class."

Construction is set to begin in the summer and finished by the time students return in the fall.

"It will be going in September for sure one way or another," said Brown. "Whether or not we get everything that's on our shopping list for the playground, or if we have to start taking out a few things, it is happening in September, something will be going in."

Learn more about the project and silent auction here: www.cjppa.ca.