Khowhemun Elementary School is trying for a grant of $100,000 from the Aviva Community Fund and hoping for enough community support to get it this year.
“It’s time to get it out there so people can vote. This is important,” said Anita Carroll, professor of nursing at VIU, which is supporting the push.
The campaign started on Oct. 11 and it ends Oct. 28.
The school, which describes itself on the Aviva site as “rich in Coast Salish traditions”, is home to 260 children from kindergarten to Grade 7.
The current school population is considered multicultural and includes an aboriginal population from both on- and off-reserve families, which is currently around 80 per cent and growing.
The grant money would be spent developing and building a new playground, making a dry riverbed and developed green space into an area for participants to explore and learn about river ecosystems and biodiversity, building an all-weather walking trail around the school grounds, providing outdoor interpretive signs (teachings about indigenous plants, animals and customs; exercise programs; health lessons that teachers can change on a regular basis for educational purposes) and finally constructing a sheltered gathering space.
This will offer a space for students, families and community members alike to join together for cultural activities such as storytelling, music and other events.
According to the application, a study has identified Khowhemun as one of three schools in the Duncan area with the highest population of vulnerable students in the areas of school readiness, social competence, language and cognitive development, physical health, well-being, and socio-economic factors such as family income and education.
Over the past five years, Bachelor of Science in Nursing students from Vancouver Island University have attended Khowhemun Elementary as part of their community health practice, according Carroll, who is not only supporting this push by her students and the school, but is also herself a Valley resident.
The nursing students have become involved with the school, teaching healthy habits such as hand washing, nutrition, helmet safety and dental health along with advice to children reaching puberty but they have seen that Khowhemun had become isolated from the greater community in Duncan, she said.
Families in the school community have themselves said they want healthy playground options and more involvement as a community with their school.
Khowhemun tried for a grant last year but was unsuccessful.
“I think that’s where we fell short last year. People just got fed up with logging on voting every day, which I understand. If I hadn’t had a vested interest, I probably would have stopped as well. Now they can place all their votes at once,” Carroll said.
Register at www.avivacommunityfund.org to vote.