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Volunteer Playground Build for St. Francis of Assisi

Volunteer playground build for St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School

Students at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School will start the new school year with a new playground. The school's former park was overhauled through a three-day volunteer build in July. More than 100 volunteers with the Division, school community, Playquest, and the University of Alberta donated their time and muscle to get the playground built.  

“It’s an extreme playground makeover!” said Board Chair Sandra Palazzo. “In just a few short days and with the support of our wonderful staff and a long list of generous donors, we were able to build a brand-new park for our students and the community of Balwin to enjoy. As the school’s namesake St. Francis of Assisi said, ‘For it is in giving that we receive’, and it couldn’t be truer for this project.” 

The school’s previous playground was built in the late 1990s and was removed earlier this spring. The wooden structure did not meet safety or accessibility standards and far exceeded its life expectancy. The new playground will be inclusive. 

“We believe all children have the right to play in a safe and accessible environment,” shared Chief Superintendent Robert Martin. “School playgrounds are not merely a place for students to let off steam or hang out during recess. It’s an environment which stimulates students' minds, provides an opportunity for a reset, and allows for their cognitive, physical, and social development.”  

On Day 2, the new playground is starting to look more like a playground. On day two of the build, the new playground was starting to look more like a playground.

The new playground features rubber surfacing, brightly coloured play equipment, and images of the seven sacred teachings. The project was made possible by a $100,000 Community Facility Enhancement Program grant and the generosity of numerous donors who gave their money, time, and other essential items for this project. Playquest provided guidance and expertise during the three-day build, but the final playground design was approved and even tweaked by students at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School.

“Our students were very supportive of the original design, but they felt the playground was missing swings! So, thanks to some last-minute donations, we were able to purchase a row of swings which means we’ve now covered everything on our students' playground wishlist,” said Principal Tom Rees.  

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School is located in the Balwin Community. It educates approximately 270 students from diverse backgrounds. More than half of the students are enrolled in the Nehiyaw Pimatisiwin program, which educates students in Cree language and culture.

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