Phase 2 of Plum Coulee School's new play structure project is happening sooner than expected!
Volunteers erected the first phase about a year ago after the school raised $65,000 through donations and grants.
However, principal, Mary Eberling-Penner says phase 2 had to wait because they didn't have enough to cover the $40,000 price tag.

"So, we installed phase one, put it all together and did an official grand opening in September of this school year and that was great. We thought we would have a few years to gather the money together for phase two, a great big slide six feet high, and then the ice storm came in January and the existing slide, on a very old place structure developed cracks. It was non-repairable, so it had to be taken down."

So, the school's parent advisory committee did some heavy-duty fund raising, bringing $3,000 with its latest effort. The Plum Coulee Foundation also contributed $3,000 through its annual spring granting that took place last week. After doing the math, Eberling-Penner says they are within Pennies of their goal and she's waiting for the 'ok' from the Garden Valley School Division before placing the order.

"Parents are very supportive and the kids are very eager to have a slide replaced," she noted. 

Meantime, students at the school continue to enjoy phase one. 

This past December, a survey showed that students from the entire school, from kindergarten through grade 8, wanted to use it. So, Eberling-Penner says they consulted with the older students about how to best share it, whether that was through a rotation or scheduled days of the cycle.

"And they really thought they could share," she exclaimed. "It's their little brothers and sisters and their friends' little brothers and sisters."

So, the structure was opened as a buddy zone for students from kindergarten through grade eight on a trial basis until Spring Break.

"There are 200 kids in the school, they obviously can't all fit. Then we'll have to come up with a plan," explained Eberling-Penner. "But kids tend to self-select what activities they want, and some kids are more inclined to go play soccer, others are more inclined to go to the swings, others want to just hang out and talk. So, there's never 200 kids on the play structure and yeah, it has just worked out that they all share. Sometimes you'll see big kids and little kids on the play structure at the same time. The first stage had a number of spinners and so, they work best if you've got some kids pushing with a number of kids on the spinners, and the little kids really love it. It's the older ones pushing. Their legs are a little longer and it kind of goes faster. So, it's been a really great experience."

Part of the new playground

In fact, this is a school climate Eberling-Penner says they've worked hard at creating over the years. One of the ways has been through regular buddy activities where the older students are purposely partnered with the younger ones, and they read, do a craft or even go for a walk.

"And so, they get to know the older students and the older students get to know the younger students. And when kids have a name and they have a connection, they're not very scary anymore. So, we've made progress, and we noticed that when we have new kids in the school, because they move in and this is so foreign to see big kids high-fiving little kids, then it really hits home that, yeah, we've developed something that's pretty cool."