Rotary partners with GC Hustonfor inclusive playground at Southampton school
An ambitious project to rehabilitate the aging playground at GC Huston School in Southampton began with a ceremony Sept. 13 with principal Hugh Morrison and Southampton Rotary president Dave Bertrand signing a memorandum of understanding to partner in fundraising to build an inclusive/accessible playground. With an estimated cost of $115,000 and a school pledge of $30,000, Southampton Rotarians are now ready to “bridge the remaining $85,000 shortfall together” according to a Sept. 13 news release in which Rotary officials said the target is to raise all the funds by Spring 2024, so the school board can tender and install the play equipment in time for the 2024 school year. At the signing at GC Huston, Rotary president Bertrand said they look forward to working with the school and communities to construct a state-of-the-art playground structure that will “keep our Huston Hawks swinging, climbing and having fun being active, for many years to come.“Southampton Rotary eagerly embraces the challenge of raising $85 000 for the project - $1,000 for every year of the club’s 85-year existence,” Bertrand said. Principal Morrison said their “enduring alliance” with Southampton Rotary makes them the perfect partner in turning this playground dream into reality. “Playgrounds aren’t just play; they’re classrooms for life skills,” Morrison said in the release. “They foster creativity, social interaction, and problem-solving, vital elements for a child’s development. Unfortunately, school playgrounds rely on community support, as they’re not funded by the School Board,” he said. The Southampton Rotary Club will lead the fundraising effort in partnership with the school and will dedicate the proceeds from the Club’s “Fund a Need” at the its annual dinner auction, October 28 at the Walker House to the project. In a playground background brief attached to the Rotary news release, principal Morrison said they have a special school. He wrote: Like most schools, we work hard on traditional classroom subjects making sure our students can read, write, do math, and solve problems that are relevant in the world. Currently, we have 370 students and we are seeing consistent growth every year. What makes our school unique, however, is that 45 per cent of our school population join us from Saugeen First Nation giving us a moral imperative to live in reconciliation and to teach students to live together embracing diversity. We learn together, laugh together, love each other, and drive change in our community. Returning from COVID, we have noticed an important connection between physical activity, time outside, and positive mental health. While much of the learning that happens in a school is planned and intentional, some key learning happens when students are active and engage in play together. Often the first step to friendship is a simple smile when children play together. A challenge to these special moments is that our playground has become dilapidated. Much of our playground equipment has been removed, as it is too old and unsafe. The (Bluewater District) school board is doing some renovations to our building to make it more accessible. They cannot cover the costs of new playground equipment. In the summer of 2024, they will be installing an elevator and refreshing the tarmac on our playground. This seems like the opportune time to coordinate the installation of a new playground structure. Morison said they are proud to partner with the Southampton Rotary Club to raise funds to buy and install a new playground structure. We have set aside some money for the project but still have a significant way to go as we are estimating the need at approximately $85,000.We want to install an accessible structure that reflects our emphasis on inclusion and activity. Learning to play together is a key aspect of what reconciliation should look like daily, Morrison wrote.