It's been a while since we talked about our Beautification Project. As we near spring some people in our community are wondering when this project will start to become visible at Belfast. This update will explain the timeline to date, and hopefully renew your excitement for this project!.
About 2 years ago we were writing grants. This was a very long and detailed process that involved parents, teachers and students. We brought in a designer and worked alongside Grounds for Change from the Calgary Zoo. When we were finished gathering ideas we had a very clear vision for what we wanted. In the fall of 2015-16 our grant proposals were submitted and we had to wait to see if we would be successful in securing grants. By the spring we found out that we were to receive $75 000 from the Communities in Partnership folks. The Communities in Partnership grant is a matching grant which means that the school needed to come up with another $75 000 in order to receive the full amount. We successfully secured a grant from Parks Canada for $25 000 and the remainder of the $50 000 was committed from our School Council and Belfast School. We were ready to roll!
The scope of our project was large so we deiced to break the project into 2 phases. The first phase would be to install the large pieces of playground equipment and other items that required extensive excavation. We sought out the required 3 quotes for this equipment but in the process of obtaining the necessary approvals discovered that there were underground power lines running directly below where we would need to dig to install equipment or plant large trees. The design need to be majorly reconfigured. This was a big set back for the committee as we had hoped to have the installation completed over the summer in time for students to return in September.
Over the summer, I met with CBE facilities and grounds personnel as well as our chosen playground supplier. We needed to choose a different layout, as well as modify some of the original choices. Since it was summer vacation, the process was very slow. When we returned in fall, we finally came to a new design concept that was as similar to the original layout as possible. It was important to make sure that the design still accomplished as many of the things our students and teachers had indicated were important to them!
By early October, we were obtaining all the necessary permits and sign offs and were ready to order the equipment. We found out that some of the pieces would take up to 8 weeks for delivery. The problem with that was the surfacing around the playground equipment needed to have a window of warmish weather in order to properly cure. Our timeline now looked like we would be into the end of November before we would be able to take delivery of all the playground pieces. If we were not lucky with the weather, we would have to surround our entire playground (old and new) with construction fencing for the duration of the winter -- until the ground was warm enough for the pour in place surfacing to be installed. NO PLAYGROUND FOR MONTHS - NO WAY!
So... the bottom line is that we have been ready to go for several months but our Calgary weather, being unpredictable, we decided to wait until spring for the install. We have paid deposits for all the equipment. We are just waiting for the ground to thaw and to be reasonably sure that we will be able to coordinate the installation of the playground surfacing.
So... what is being installed?
There will be 3 large pieces of equipment installed including a bank of swings, a bank of arch swings and something called a super nova. We are also new bicycle racks, more bench seating around the playground and an outdoor classroom space that will have picnic table style seating for our students to use during the day! All of these improvements will also be well used by our parents an our community members when school is not in session!
Once the large pieces are installed we will be able to look at what funds remain and prioritize stage 2. In Stage 2 we will add landscaping, naturalized areas and other wish list items.
Looking back at where we began, there have been changes along the way. Our murals on the front and south sides of the school have helped to beautify our building. CBE installed a new surface in our compound area that replaced the broken and weed filled concrete that was there before. The front of the school was enhanced with new plantings and the north side of the schools received some much needed attention in by pruning and removing overgrown shrubs.
I want to thank our Beautification Committee who have worked so hard (and now waited so patiently) to have our outdoor dreams realized. From the beginning our guiding idea was to have our outside reflect the beauty that was already apparent inside Belfast School. It is exciting that we will be able to see this come to fruition very very soon!