Churchill Alternative set to host dance-a-thon fundraiser for new play structure

A multicoloured banner outside Churchill Alternative School reads "Help build our playground."
A banner along the school fence at 345 Ravenhill Ave. Photo by Maureen McEwan.

By Charlie Senack

Churchill Alternative School is looking to build a new play structure for their kinderyears, and is looking for community help to fund the costly project. 

Discussions about a new play yard began in late 2019, when their former structure was reaching the end of its life expectancy. Plans were to hit the ground running with fundraising, but then COVID-19 happened, delaying events from taking place. 

The old play structure had to be removed, and now the school’s youngest learners are left with only sand and a small fire truck-shaped climbing structure.

Tami Grosset, who co-chaired the school’s parent council last year and now serves as secretary, says pandemic restrictions have loosened enough for fundraising initiatives to resume. This June, they are holding a dance-a-thon to hopefully bring in at least $3,000 more. 

“One of the things that makes Churchill special is that our team works really hard in different ways to create multi-age grouping in the school, and that’s wonderful,” she said. “One of the special ways our school does it is with a thing called ‘Tree Families’ which is for students from grades one to six, and they all get to play together. We have not been able to do that for the last couple of years, but the plan is to bring it back with the dance-a-thon.”

Churchill has already raised $50,000 of their $130,000 goal through strong support from the community. One family, who asked to remain anonymous, donated $25,000 before Christmas, and, recently, Wedel Touch of Europe in Westboro held a successful pierogi fundraiser. The school has also received support from the Westboro BIA, and recently partnered with the Richmond Nursery to sell hanging flower baskets and planters. 

The outside yard for school children at the Churchill Alternative School with the sandy yard and tall tree.
The Churchill Alternative School yard in May 2022. Photo by Maureen McEwan.

Grosset said the generosity from the community has been even more appreciated after a tough two years with the pandemic and rising costs. The school already lost some of their main revenue streams when their regular pizza days and holiday craft fair had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. COVID-19 has also meant the school’s enrollment went down significantly, meaning there are less families to ask for support.  

Churchill’s parent council says funding the play structure is a worthy investment, noting how the equipment would be for more than just play. 

“Children spend an awful lot of time learning by playing, and our outdoor yard is important to those learners,” said Grosset. “Our play area needs to be a place where our kindergartners can test their bodies and find out about the world. Right now, it’s a barren landscape where we have sand, sand, sand and more sand. There is not much for our kindergarteners to engage with and learn by.”

The school said donations can be made through forms on their website, and cash or cheques can be mailed in or dropped off at the front desk. Any donations over $10 are eligible for a tax receipt. 

When the new structure is built, it’s also expected to help with current drainage problems, which results in the play yard becoming a soggy mess in the spring. 

Because construction on a new play yard can only take place during the summer break, a new one isn’t expected to be open and functioning until September 2023. 

Once completed, the proposed plans include a new play structure made out of engineered wood fibre; a dino dig area with fossils; a mud kitchen; log playhut; benches and a trough planter garden. 

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