Vernon Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu addresses the crowd at the opening of the new accessible and inclusive playground at Vernon’s Alexis Park Elementary School Tuesday, May 16. (Roger Knox - Morning Star) Grade 7 students Gabe Teeples (left) and Allison Sanchez were the official emcees for the opening of the new accessible and inclusive playground at Vernon’s Alexis Park Elementary School Tuesday, May 16. (Roger Knox - Morning Star) The Alexis Park Elementary School Grade 4-6 choir, under the direction of teacher Tobi Huggins (left) belts out a song for guests at the official opening of the school’s new inclusive and accessible playground Tuesday, May 16. (Roger Knox - Morning Star) Vernon Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu (right) greets students at Vernon’s Alexis Park Elementary on the school’s new inclusive and accessible playground equipment Tuesday, May 16. (Roger Knox - Morning Star) B.C. Education and Child Care Minister Racnha Singh (left) announces the government will provide $5 million toward 25 new school playgrounds across 25 school districts. The announcement was made Tuesday, May 16, at Vernon’s Alexis Park Elementary at its new inclusive and accessible playground. (Roger Knox - Morning Star) B.C. Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh (centre) joins Alexis Park Elementary student Callandra Solhus-Grant (inside,left) and Vernon Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu (rear) for a ride on the Oodle Swing, part of the new inclusive and accessible playground equipment at the Vernon School, Tuesday, May 16. Pushing the trio are students Lexa Meise (left) and Brody Panter-Stokes. (Roger Knox - Morning Star) Construction on the playground was completed in 2020 but an official opening and announcement of further such funding for playgrounds around the province was made Tuesday, May 16, at Vernon’s Alexis Park Elementary School. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Taking a ride with students on an Oodle Swing. Giving a colleague a twirl in the Global Motion. Up and over the Portal Climber.
You couldn’t wipe the smile off Rachna Singh’s face Tuesday morning in Vernon.
B.C.’s education minister was on hand to officially open the new accessible and inclusive playground at Alexis Park Elementary School May 16, then proceeded to join students in playing on the new equipment.
“I could spend the whole day here,” laughed Singh, after sharing the Oodle Swing with Vernon Monashee MLA, NDP colleague Harwinder Sandhu, who received a push around the Global Motion equipment from the minister.
“Playgrounds are excellent for our kids’ physical and mental health, and are spaces where they can be themselves and express their fun-loving nature. Our government is helping communities throughout the province with better access to modern playground equipment that will benefit everyone.”
The program significantly reduces parent-led fundraising that was previously needed to help build playgrounds.
The playground at Alexis Park Elementary was actually constructed in 2020.
“Alexis Park students love their new playground and we have seen positive changes in mental health and engagement since it has been completed,” said acting principal Cordell Ware.
Singh and Sandhu were joined on the Oodle Swing by students Brody Panter-Stokes, Lexa Meise, and Callandra Salhus-Grant. Panter-Stokes is a Grade 5 student who has mobility issues so the new playground for him is, in a word, “awesome.” And it’s an upgrade from the old playground.
“Oh yeh, it (playground) definitely makes a difference. It’s pretty awesome,” he said.
“It’s really fun, really cool,” said Meise, a Grade 6 student who is a big fan of the monkey bars. “This playground is more accessible for all students.”
Fellow monkey bar lover Salhus-Grant, who is in Grade 4, loves the new playground but…“There should be more monkey bars. I really like monkey bars.”
Joining the festivities Tuesday morning were Grade 7 emcees Allison Sanchez and Gabe Teeples, Vernon School District board vice-chair Tom Williamson, the Alexis Park Grade 4-6 choir with teacher Tobi Huggins conducting, and the school’s Parent Advisory Council chair Laura Tifenbach, who said the entire community will benefit from the accessible, inclusive playground.
“Our children get to play on excellent equipment,” she said. “It is great to hear them laugh and wonderful to see them all having a great time. It has become a place for the community to come together and enjoy play.”
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