Hidden Valley school gets new playground equipment

The empty space after the wooden structure was removed (Courtesy/Hidden Valley Elementary School)The empty space after the wooden structure was removed (Courtesy/Hidden Valley Elementary School)
The wooden structure at Hidden Valley Elementary School before it was removed (Courtesy/Hidden Valley School Council)The wooden structure at Hidden Valley Elementary School before it was removed (Courtesy/Hidden Valley School Council)

Hidden Valley Elementary School is getting new playground equipment following prolonged complaints by the school council to the department of Education and Education Minister Jeanie McLean.

The school council had written several letters between June and July, protesting the removal of the playground equipment without any plans to replace it. The school council had expressed fears the equipment would not be replaced before the new school year starts on Aug. 22.

“Physical activity and outdoor play have many benefits for our children, both for physical and mental health. Outdoor play structures are critical for our children’s well-being. While we do not want unsafe playground equipment for our children, it should be immediately replaced by something that meets the department’s safety standards,” one of the letters dated July 5 read.

McLean responded to the school council’s letter on July 19 and said the Yukon government will continue to prioritize investments in school infrastructure.

On July 31, four days after the News published a piece on the demands for replacement playground equipment, Education spokesperson Krisandra Reid said new playground equipment for the school has been purchased and is on its way to be installed at the beginning of the school year.

Reid said the department of Education’s health and safety management coordinator also met with the school council on July 28 and together, they mapped out where the new playground equipment will go and included room for expansion next summer.

“The school council purchased the main bundle of equipment, and the department of Education purchased two additional pieces of neurodiverse-inclusive equipment. The department will also cover the costs of installation,” Reid said in an email to the News.

She said the upgrade replaces the two 30-year-old wooden structures with equipment that is more inclusive and encourages outdoor learning and play.

“In the meantime, there is still another playground at the school and the climbing equipment is being moved to a more convenient location. Additionally, with support from the Every Student, Every Day initiative, the school is also adding a gaga-ball court, which will further expand play options for students of all ages at Hidden Valley Elementary,” she said.

Gaga-ball court is designed in the shape of an octagon. The game is a fast paced, high energy sport played with a soft foam ball, and combines the skills of dodging, striking, running, and jumping, while trying to hit opponents with a ball below the knees.

The email said the new playground equipment is expected to arrive in September, and to be installed by October.

In total, two different purchases were made by the school council and the department of Education. The school council paid for the main bundle of the equipment at $23,000 while the department purchased two pieces of neurodiverse-inclusive equipment at a cost of $4,948 which includes shipping.

Chrissy Sands, a member of the school council, said the department has agreed to cover the costs of installation. Reid said the installation costs will be confirmed after the project is complete. The current priority, she said, is to have the equipment installed within the first month-and-a-half of the school year.

“They (the department) have promised and said they would provide a larger structure next year and we would like to see this tender out soon.”

Sands said the climber from the back of the school was to be moved to the front and is hopeful this would happen before the new school year starts.

“We would like to provide a huge shout out to Pacific Northwest because they offered to cover the freight cost from Alberta for the equipment that council ordered and paid for this year,” Sands said.

Contact Patrick Egwu at patrick.egwu@yukon-news.com