B.C. won't fund playground access for special needs kids
Parents at two Lower Mainland elementary schools are shocked they’ve been stuck with the cost of making their children’s playgrounds accessible for special needs students.
Children in walkers or wheelchairs would be able to play at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser Elementary School if the wood chips were replaced with a rubber surface.
“It would mean the world,” said Dina Smallman, whose eight-year-old son has cerebral palsy and uses a walker.
But the cost for the replacement is $113,000 and neither the school district nor the provincial government are willing to provide the funding.
At Castle Park Elementary School in Port Coquitlam parents are also desperate for an accessible playground.
Olivia and McKenzie Aziz, sisters with cerebral palsy, need someone to push them up a ramp to the playground.
“Playgrounds are part of the school, so really they should be funding the playgrounds as well,” said mother Shannon Aziz.
Right now, the swings are the only accessible part of the playground, and to make the rest available to special needs kids would cost a whopping $300,000.
“It's unfair to expect parents to pay for this,” said Farah Hirji Chung, a mother of a special needs child at the school. “As a mother I don't want to see her excluded without giving my best shot to try… I don't want her to be at a school where she can't play with her friends.”
Castle Park has launched an online campaign to get votes for its bid to receive an Aviva Community Grant worth $150,000.
B.C.’s Ministry of Education says the government has a limited amount of funds available, and the school districts say the province should provide the funding, which leaves parents scrambling to get grants and ask for donations.
Parents in other Metro Vancouver areas are facing similar struggles to get funding to replace aging wooden playgrounds.
Two playgrounds in East Vancouver were vandalized in September and parents have been stuck with the $60,000 bill to rebuild each one.
Another wooden playground in Langley was recently torn out, and the Langley School District says it can’t afford to replace it.
The province does offer one-time grants for playgrounds,but districts say they’re hard to come by.
Sixty wooden playgrounds will need to be replaced in Vancouver in the next few years at a projected costof $3.6 million, and parents are expected to step in to cover what grants don’t if they want their kids to have somewhere to play.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee