Monday, April 22, 2024

Trees & Outdoor Spaces Important For Students


Thank you to everyone, both School Board staff and concerned parents and community members for attending the March 21st information session at Macphail regarding the portable placement proposal and impact on the “Kindy Forest”.

I did not grow up in this area, but I am no stranger to rural communities. That is one of the reasons I love living and raising our family where we do. I grew up 45 minutes east of Orillia in a very small community. The school I started my education in was the stone schoolhouse my mother attended, and by the time I was there we had 5 portables that housed grades 1-6, and the main building had the kindergarten and 7/8 classrooms (2), the library and the school offices. Our ‘gym’ was outside on nice days and the community hall down the highway and around the corner. What we did have was an amazing, treed area, which also had a lot of rocks and hills to it. I don’t remember what the inside of the portables looked like, but I can picture that play area and remember the make believe and games I had with my friends to this day.

Our board decided that based on the 4 small schools in our area, various ages in buildings and repairs, it would be in the best interests to build a new school and amalgamate the 4 together. So, starting in grade 4, we went to a bleak new school yard with no trees, kindergarteners who had to cross paths with the senior kids’ basketball courts and hangouts to get to and from their play area, and a loss of that creativity in make believe. We just no longer had the natural resources for imagination to take and create with. Gone were the “houses” in the lilac bushes and tree roots. Gone were the slides and sticks and mud building on the hills.

And guess what – the school eventually did fundraising and looked at grants to make outdoor spaces and plant trees. Why? Because it is important. So important. We have created a disconnect where it is us and nature, and somehow forgetting that we are part of nature and nature is part of us. There is a reason that this issue isn’t about what grades are going in the portables, or what the fire drills look like. People are passionate about this because we recognize the treasure that is there and the impact it has on our children.

I believe there are alternate options that are valid contenders as solutions that would both appease the requirements of the school, as well as the desire to keep the current Kindy Forest intact and whole. I understand that there are timelines that need to be met for decisions, but I also think that this can be included in the solution collaboration. Several ideas were brought to attention tonight that combined have potential – in particular looking at the rear asphalt of the building for 1 portable for the 2024-25 school year while alternate options are discussed. The Board members present at the meeting were quite clear that there is no quick-happening addition in the works. Therefore, there is no immediate pressure for a portable to be placed elsewhere for building to happen. The idea of altering the bus loop and incorporating space there for additional portables is also an option. I believe there needs to be further examination into options and for further collaboration with the community.

At the end of the day, we all want what is best for our children and their children, and I believe they will remember the outcome of this and its lasting impacts will be far-reaching.

Liz Francis, Singhampton

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