$125K grant from Aviva Fund to build playground

After relentless work by parents and supporters, both École Mt. Prevost and Palsson Elementary School have managed to secure grants from the Aviva Community Fund.

Mt. Prevost was one of the fund’s grand prize winners, it was announced Jan. 28, picking up $125,000 for its ambitious plans for a community garden and enhanced playground that will fit its student body.

The school community lost its playground equipment when it moved from its former location at the historic Duncan Elementary School because those facilities had to stay in that area. So they have been energetically working towards finding money for replacements ever since, gathering many new friends along the way.

Adam Clutchey of the school’s parent advisory council was ecstatic Tuesday when announcing the win.

"We have done it! I am proud to say that it’s official," he said. "I am still in shock. We still need the whole community behind us until our project is built. Let the planning begin!" Mona Kaiser, Prevost parent and a driving force behind the push for Aviva funding, said she was thrilled at the outcome.

"You know, this is just so exciting. We can start work right away," she said, adding that the funding comes in increments and a disbursement schedule needs to be set up with Aviva.

"They would like to see the majority of the work undertaken by December, which is fantastic," she said.

Much of the major construction likely won’t be done until school is out.

"But the community garden, the planting of trees? That kind of thing can get started really as soon as we want."

Heading into spring, it’s just the season for it, she said.

She’s already had Cowichan Green Community and the volunteers who do the Cairnsmore Hospital garden express interest in partnerships.

"It really has touched the community in a really nice way," Kaiser said.

She is excited about the fact that it’s more than just a school playground.

"It just makes sense to do something with a wider impact," Kaiser said. "Actually one of the things that made me go down this path was when the school board was putting in the play structure that’s in there now, before it was even completed, you’d go out there and there were parents with little toddlers trying to use the structure, doing whatever they could. Some of them were playing in the gravel.

"I realized then that there’s nothing for these kids up here."

Meanwhile, up at Lake Cowichan, the Palsson group was also waiting to hear if their smaller proposal had been approved.

It was. They received $5,000 for playground improvements. Brenda Montgomery said on Facebook that she was delighted.

"Thank you to all the wonderful people who worked hard for our school. $5,000 is great, but it would have been really nice to get more. Next year we will come back bigger and better. We will show what a small town can do," she said.