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Doubled provincial playground budget nets only one for Richmond schools

Education minister says ventilation has been a "major issue" during the pandemic
Alexis and Tyler check out the playground equipment at Grauer elementary.

The province has doubled its budget for building school playgrounds this year — from $5 million to $10 million — the Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside, announced Friday at Richmond’s Grauer elementary.

But with 60 new playgrounds coming online in the province over the next year, only one, at Mitchell elementary, is pegged for the Richmond School District.

Mitchell elementary recently underwent an $11.4 million seismic upgrade and partial rebuild.

But, when asked why, during a pandemic, the extra $5 million for playgrounds wasn’t put into improving air ventilation systems at schools, Whiteside pointed out $87.5 million was spent on ventilation at schools across the province over the past two years.

Out of this, Richmond received $2.1 million during the pandemic.

Whiteside said ventilation has been a “major issue” for school districts and the ministry during the pandemic.

One parent expressed his concern to the Richmond News last week about air quality as his children were going back to Dixon elementary, which largely depends on having its windows open to ventilate the school.

The COVID-19 virus is transmitted through aerosol spray so ventilation is key to stopping the virus from circulating in closed spaces.

Schools that don’t have mechanical HVAC systems rely on keeping windows open and the heat turned up to keep air circulating.

The school district said this plan to ventilate classrooms at Dixon meets provincial health standards.

Whiteside said the ministry has worked throughout summer, with educators, public health and the BC Centre for Disease Control to make sure safety plans were in place “to ensure that we have a safe return to school.”