Churchill Alternative looks to raise $50,000 in a pinch for new play structure

The playground at Churchill Alternative School. There is a big sand pit and a fire’s truck structure which kids can play on.
Churchill Alternative School has been fundraising for a new kinder-year play structure since 2020. Construction is set to begin this summer, but they are now $50,000 short due to rising costs. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack

Churchill Alternative School is looking to raise $50,000 in a pinch so they can build a new play structure for their kindergarten students this summer. 

The school started raising money for the new playground equipment two years ago after their former structure was decommissioned due to safety concerns in 2020. The pandemic hindered fundraising efforts which are now hitting another setback because of rising costs. 

The school community was able to raise $149,000 — in part thanks to many donations from the community at large. School events such as a danceathon last June were able to bring in $9,000, and Wedel Touch of Europe in Westboro held a successful pierogi fundraiser. A City of Ottawa grant also contributed to the pot, alongside $25,000 from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.

A year later the cost of the project has gone up by $50,000, leaving the school scrambling to find the funds. Construction can only take place during the summer, and approval needs to come within weeks. 

“We were warned that we’d need more (money) because of inflation,” said Tami Grosset, who serves as the school’s parent council secretary. “The quote of $198,000 was actually from the lowest bidder. It’s shocking, really. It feels like a goal post that keeps on moving.”

Amanda and Tami pose for a photograph in the school yard. Both are wearing green hoodies with the school’s name on them.
Amanda Case (left) and Tami Grosset (right) from the school’s parent council say if they don’t raise the funds in weeks, only a portion of the project can go ahead. Photo by Charlie Senack.

That price tag doesn’t even include extras the parent council was hoping to include in the new playground. If the money can’t be raised, the school will need to remove some of the features, or do the construction in stages, which could also increase the total costs. 

“We have all been shocked (over) how hard it’s been to raise money during a pandemic and now through a cost of living crisis,” said Grosset. “We have members of our school community who are struggling to pay their grocery bills or are thinking of selling their house because they can’t keep up with their mortgage payments. It’s really hard to be asking people to find money at such a difficult time in the world.”

Current plans for the new playground include a new play structure with an outdoor learning space which can be used as a classroom. Improved drainage is also part of the project. The yard currently floods after the spring melt or during heavy rainfalls. 

Grosset is optimistic the school will find some generous donors or a benefactor who will help them get construction done in full. 

“Kindergarteners like to spend a lot of time outside learning. It’s a huge part of the alternative program that we offer,” she said. “We need our outside space to be more interactive so they can play, get creative, and test their bodies.”

A banner hangs on the fence of the school yard reading “Help build our playground.”
To date the school has raised over $149,000 through donations, grants and functions. Photo by Charlie Senack.

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