Principal hopes new playground equipment can be added by June

Submitted photo Back Bay Elementary School is raising funds to install new playground equipment, which they hope to be able to do by June.

Back Bay – Fundraising has been happening for new playground equipment installed at Back Bay Elementary School. Principal Aldena Higgins-Harris said they put in two new pieces to go along with the existing playground, but last May, unknown individuals vandalized the spiral slide, damaging it beyond repair, so the school had to find funds to purchase a new one.

“The community came together and thought, we need to get that replaced,” said Higgins-Harris. “The first big activity was from Seaview Full Gospel Church. It was a benefit, and then there was a youth donation of $1,000. That was a big push to get it started, but it was kind of slow over the summer.”

Higgins-Harris said once the new school year began, they were able to get a spiral slide from Grand Manan. They thought it would fit, but they still wanted to put a push on for a new piece of equipment to go along with what they already had. They looked at a new piece, which they ordered with the help of the Home and School chairperson Tammy Leavitt, who Higgins-Harris said is great at writing grants. They had a few meetings to decide what they had room for, and found that what they wanted would cost around $31,000.

“We had gotten a grant. Tammy had fostered a grant from the Family and Youth Capital Assistance program through our government. Andrea Anderson-Mason supported that to get the help to fill out the application and get it in. The district has just paid for the order, and we’ll get the money from that assistance program to add to what we had in our account, which was $20,000 plus,” said Higgins-Harris.

Higgins-Harris said they have received other funding for the much-needed playground equipment, including a cheque for $5,000 from Cooke Aquaculture, and a $500 donation from the Cook Christmas Give Back campaign. A spaghetti dinner was held for the students, and it was filmed. That film was submitted as their entry, and they won.

They also received a grant from the Fundy Community Foundation. Once they have purchased the playground equipment, they plan to use the remaining funds to enhance their outdoor classroom, which is located in the woods. Because Back Bay is a fishing community, they have decided to name the project, “Weir it Begins”. They plan to erect a gazebo with nautical items to connect it to the fishing heritage. To help build the shelter to protect people from the sun, they have applied for a grant from the Canadian Dermatology Association.

“There is a ball field with a trail along the edge,” said Higgins-Harris. “A lot of the focus at our school is outdoor education to get outside. This will be something we can combine to put with our playground and outdoor classroom.”

The big push now is to get the funding for the gazebo and wooded project, along with the installation costs for the playground equipment they have already received. They are planning a bingo night at the St. George Legion. This will be part of the regular bingo, and there have been donations for prizes. They may consider putting some items in a basket and holding a draw.

Higgins-Harris said they are hoping to be able to working on the remainder of the project towards the end of the school year. They need to install a teeter totter and other equipment. Rather than have the installation done by the company that supplies the equipment, they have decided to have it done locally.

“We purchase equipment through Kangaroo. If they put it in for us, it’s usually double what you pay. We figure if we go local there’s a good chance we can put it in for $15,000 to $20,000. We’re optimistic. If people know they have the equipment in hand, they’ll come forth.”

They already have a regular swing and a handicapped swing, as well as a climbing apparatus. They still need to install the spiral slide, and work on the gazebo and wooded area. They are still seeking donations, and any donation, no matter how large or small, will help greatly towards the completion of this project.

“We have a wonderful group of dedicated parents,” said Higgins-Harris. “They push forward and try to upgrade every year. After the damage, we put a push forward to try and do something for the community of Back Bay. Everyone uses it.”