Young volunteers help install EJ Dunn Elementary School’s new community place space on Saturday, Sept. 29. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Young volunteers help install EJ Dunn Elementary School’s new community place space on Saturday, Sept. 29. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

EJ Dunn Elementary School installs new playground

The Port Alberni school has been without a play space for years

Students at EJ Dunn Elementary School finally have a playground of their own.

The school had close to 50 people from the community show up on Saturday, Sept. 29 to volunteer their time (and wheelbarrows) for the construction of a new play space. Wood chips will be installed this week, followed by an inspection to ensure that the play structure is safe.

“Hopefully we’ll have the kids playing on it by the end of the week,” said EJ Dunn principal Stacey Manson on Saturday.

After more than two years of fundraising by the EJ Dunn Parent Advisory Council (PAC), the school received a $105,000 grant from the provincial government this spring in order to build a universally-accessible play space.

Universally-accessible, says Manson, means that the playground will feature an “omni-spinner” for children with mobility issues, as well as a play structure with a number of balancing activities, slides and monkey bars.

“We’re really looking at physical literacy here,” she explained. “It’s not just the students at our school, but the whole community here. Hopefully we’ll have a playground that can be used for many years.”

EJ Dunn PAC chair Shelby Kuhn said the PAC has fundraised just over $20,000 over the past two years. This additional funding will be used for “part two” of the playground, she said.

“We’re hoping to put in a zip-line, that was a big thing for the kids,” she explained.

School District 70 board chair Pam Craig, who took part in the volunteer efforts over the weekend, said the PAC consulted with children, families and faculty before the playground equipment was purchased.

“They all had input,” she explained. “There’s so much commitment and effort behind this. It’s amazing how much time and effort it takes to build a playground.”

Because EJ Dunn was originally built as a middle school, it lacked the play spaces that usually support early learning and active children.

“I’m so excited that it’s finally come together and that the community came out to help,” said Kuhn. “The kids have been waiting for a long time.”

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com