As Torquay Elementary students begin the school year, there’s a new electrical and waterline on their playground.
The new equipment was destined for a portable unit that was to be placed on the playground’s blacktop on Monday, Sept. 17, but after criticism from the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), the school district is changing its plans.
“There had been no consultation,” said Jasmine Haere, the vice-president of Torquay’s PAC. “The district had actually put in the services, the water and electrical line over the summer without us knowing about it. A few people who visited the school had found out about it because they could see the blacktop getting dug up.”
Torquay Elementary School won $100,000 for BCAA Play Here for a new playground only two years ago, after years of fundraising efforts by the PAC. The PAC had concerns about the portable taking up space on the blacktop.
There will be 25 new students this year with less space to play than the year before. In the winter, the playground is the only space available for the kids to spend time outside, since the upper fields fill with water. Haere said the portable could also block the view of playground supervisors.
“Over the years, we’ve worked really hard to create a great space for the kids and for our community to come together. They really rallied behind us to get the BCAA playground,” Haere said.
The new portable is for the Kids Club before and after school care, Haere said. The childcare service received grants for the portable and will own the building for 10 years, then it will become the property of School District 61.
Haere said there are only 20 families involved in the Kids Club. After legislation demanding smaller class sizes was passed, the Kids Club rented space in a nearby church last year.
Last Friday, the school district agreed to consult with the PAC on placing the portable. But on Sunday, the principal sent an email saying she had already met with the district and facilities director that morning and they would installing the portable on Sept. 17. By Monday afternoon, however, the school district changed course.
In an email, Lisa McPhail, the communications manager for School District 61, said “the portable will not be moved onsite until a final placement has been agreed upon.”
Haere said the PAC was sent an email about a new unnamed site for the portable, which will not be ready for Oct. 1. She said there haven’t been discussions with the PAC yet, and she’s wary of the undisclosed plans because of the work done over the summer without any consultation and the sudden change in plans over the course of the last four days.
“At this point, I’m hopeful that they’re going to fix that blacktop,” Haere said. “They’re still talking about sitting for the new structure but haven’t tried to make any connection through the PAC, but are already saying they’re naming a new site. None of it really makes much sense.”
Until it’s ready to be placed, the portable will be stored offsite.