When the students of Discovery School head out to their playground, they are careful to avoid the sections of the monkey bars that are held together with purple duct tape.
“We inherited the playground from the previous owners of the school when we bought the building in 2010,” explained school principal Sherri Ko.
“The swings are rusty and a little unstable as well, and in general the playground is in pretty bad shape.”
Beyond that, one of the cables holding the climbing net has snapped, making it unusable. There are currently only four swings and the top bar is starting to bow when all four seats are in use.
It’s a situation that has the children, staff and parent volunteers at the school doubly excited about their recent shortlisting as one of 10 schools in the running for $100,000 in funding from the BCAA’s Play Here Program. That’s a program that annually invites schools in need of playgrounds to apply for funds to upgrade and renovate their play equipment.
As one might expect, hundreds of schools apply for the grant, but it’s only the top 10 applications, chosen by the BCAA, that are eligible for the funding. The shortlist was announced on May 25 and the public is now invited to vote (online) for the most deserving school.
The three schools receiving the most votes will receive up to $100,000 for the revitalization of their play structure.
According to Jeanine Woodman, the school’s volunteer fundraising chairperson, the parents and interested community members and supporters have been trying their best to address the poor playground equipment for years. The parent support group has been raising money and currently has $5,000 set aside to replace the swing set by March 2019.
But with only 75 students and 25 staff members in the school, it’s the very nature of Discovery School that makes the generation of funds a challenge. The school’s very small enrolment means that there are far fewer parents and volunteers available to raise funds for any project.
“We’re a very special school with only 75 students, all of whom have a special designation of some sort. These are students who have a broad range of challenges that make the regular public school system a poor fit,” said Ko.
“These young people are in need of some modifications and adaptations to their learning environment in order to make their education a success.”
While it operates as an independent school, Discovery School is certified by the Ministry of Education as a class 1 school, which means that they follow the public school curriculum and, while they do receive some public funding, the funding level is below the level of public school students.
That fact notwithstanding, the school manages to provide specialized programming that Ko explained has managed to graduate children who otherwise might not have succeeded in their education. Many of those young people go on to post secondary education.
“Beyond fundraising, you can imagine that with less than 80 students we’re at a distinct disadvantage in a situation where we’re trying to get votes to earn us the BCAA grant. In order to have a chance against much larger schools, we have to engage the entire community, including people who have no children in the school,” said Woodman.
Woodman is asking that everyone takes the time to visit bcaaplayhere.com and cast a vote for Discovery School. Voting continues to June 17.
“These are a very special group of students who deserve a break. We’re the only school in Victoria to make the top 10 list and there are no young people in greater need or more deserving of the community’s support,” said Woodman.