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Premier back in Delta to announce school playground funding

Premier Christy Clark was at a local school playground Friday morning to announce new funding for school playgrounds.

Premier Christy Clark was at a local school playground Friday morning to announce new funding for school playgrounds.

"Learning continues outside the classroom and playgrounds are a venue where kids come together and learn from each other through play," she said standing in front of the playground at South Park Elementary in Tsawwassen. "Playgrounds are a reminder to all of us that providing access to safe places helps make kids happier, healthier and ready to learn."

Clark announced $8 million in funding over the next two years for new playgrounds, as well as upgrades to existing facilities.

Forty-four public elementary and middle schools across the province, that do not have a playground, have been given first priority and will receive $50,000 each. None of the schools in Delta were on that list.

The ministry of education is currently working with school districts and parent advisory councils in B.C. to identify schools that had playgrounds built this year that could benefit from up to $50,000 in reimbursements. The remaining funds are slated for upgrading and replacing equipment at existing schools.

"Well-planned school playgrounds provide unique learning environments for our children and are an important part of their school experience," said Education minister George Abbott. "They are an extension of the classroom and help promote fun and healthy activity for kids at school."

District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) chair Lisa Leblanc said the new funding will allow PACs to funnel money that would have gone into building or upgrading playgrounds into enhancing other areas of schools.

"It's an exciting announcement and we look forward to seeing it unfold."

Delta school board chair Dale Saip said he was happy to see the government stepping forward with the playground funding, noting playgrounds are an important part of schools and the surrounding community.

"It's a challenge to get kids away from the computer screen and onto a playground."

In Delta, the municipality has had to step in and help fund new playgrounds at local schools.

Earlier this year, the mayor, members of council and Delta staff were on hand as Holly Elementary celebrated the opening of its new playground, which received $35,000 in funding from the Corporation. South Park's new playground was also partially funded by the municipality.

Coun. Anne Peterson, who attended Friday's announcement as acting mayor, said it's not council's place to step in and help fund playgrounds, but the municipality made the decision earlier this year to help out when needed.

In March, Delta council agreed to dip into the municipality's contingency budget to help fund playground upgrades at three South Delta elementary schools - Holly, South Park and Beach Grove. Four schools - Richardson, Jarvis, Hellings and Port Guichon - were also identified as a high priority for 2012.

Peterson said the government's announcement Friday was good news but how it will benefit Delta remains to be seen.

"The devil's in the details," she said, adding the municipality will keep the projects in the budget.