Water gathered from around the world was used in a blessing Friday to mark the officially opening of the new playground at Savory Elementary School.
Shirley Alphonse, an Elder with connections to the Cowichan and T’Sou-ke Nations, performed the blessing with water collected from a varieyt of sites during travels by her dear friend, B.C. Premier John Horgan.
“It’s an honour to be here with the premier and all the children from Savory School,” Alphonse said to those gathered outside the school next to the playground. “Thanks to everyone involved in the project. May each child always be happy and safe.”
Ravi Parmar, Sooke School District board chair and trustee, thanked everyone, including members of the the board, staff and parents for their efforts in bringing the $105,000 project to fruition before introducing Horgan to a crowd of parents, facilities staff, politicians and guests.
Horgan, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, spoke fondly of Alphonse, and joked about some of the difficulties he’s dealt with bringing small containers of water from different countries back to her on airplanes. “This school in Langford will be forever connected by the waters from around the world that blessed this playground,” he said.
He spoke about the challenges parents have historically faced selling chocolates, through bake sales and a host of other methods to raise money for what were considered incidentals in the past.
“The days of parents funding playgrounds are over,” Horgan said, citing the the commitment he made with B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming. “In less than two years, we’ve announced 101 new playgrounds opening in schools across the province. We’re taking the pressure off parents who work so hard to fundraise.”
Fleming reiterated that commitment, pointing out that the government’s Playground Equipment Program has invested $10 million in playgrounds since it was launched in 2018. He underlined that investing in playgrounds addresses the educational experience, which is about much more than academics. “Sometimes parents had to fundraise for six, seven, eight years just to build a playground, ” Fleming said. “This responds to a need we’ve heard from throughout the province.”
Savory principal Kerry Arnot expressed gratitude to the provincial government for the grant, the school’s Parent Advisory Council, the Sooke School District board, staff and district workers in helping refine the vision for the playground. “There’s been amazing contributions by so many people in making this playground accessible to all students,” she said.
Robyn Little, president of the Savory Elementary Parent Advisory Council, thanked the district and the province. “It enhances the natural surroundings for outdoor play and learning here at Savory,” she said. “We’re thrilled.”
Her daughter Hannah, a Grade 5 student said she and her friends like playing on it. “There’s so much more to do now. Thank you all.”
Schools in B.C. have the option of applying for PEP funding by sending a list of priorities in their capital plan submissions in June of each year. Playgrounds are funded on the greatest need, with priority given to schools with no playground., then to schools where the existing playground is aging.