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Bertha Kennedy Catholic School gets cash for new playground

Community enhancement grant provides $125,000 to help replace 25-year old “splinter park”
KA-CHING — Friends of Bertha Kennedy members Morris Flynn (left) and Chelsee Pedwell (right) accept a symbolic cheque for $125,000 from Morinville-St. Albert MLA Dale Nally (centre) on April 12, 2024. The money will help replace the 25-year-old wooden playground at Bertha Kennedy Catholic visible behind them. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

Bertha Kennedy students got a step closer to a new playground last week after a local MLA dropped by with a $125,000 cheque.

Members of the Friends of Bertha Kennedy Fundraising Association and Bertha Kennedy Catholic staff received a $125,000 Community Facility Enhancement Program grant from Morinville–St. Albert MLA Dale Nally on April 12. The cash was meant to help the school replace its wooden playground, which is at least 25 years old.

In an email, Nally said that the Friends of Bertha Kennedy had spent countless hours raising money to replace this playground, which would be enjoyed by students and area residents for years to come.

“I’m so pleased that the [grant] was awarded to them to help meet their fundraising goal.”

'Splinter park'

Bertha Kennedy has two playgrounds, the newer of which dates to 2009, said principal Lisa Giacobbo. City of St. Albert records show that the wooden playground was built in 1999, suggesting that it was a replacement for the school’s original one built in 1979.

The wood playground is so old that city crews have been removing parts of it that are broken or no longer safe, said Chelsee Pedwell, president of the Friends of Bertha Kennedy association.

“It’s wood, so there’s lots of splinters,” she said, adding that school staff and students had dubbed it the “splinter park” as a result.

Pedwell said this grant, plus $65,000 from the City of St. Albert and around $80,000 raised through dances, bake sales, and other activities, brings the school within $30,000 of the $300,000 it needs to build a replacement playground. The school community hopes to raise the rest through grants and other means in the coming months so they can start construction this summer.

“My kids are very excited,” Pedwell said.

“They’ve been looking through the playground books and picking out stuff they think should be in the playground.”

Pedwell said the fundraising association is still finalizing the playground’s design, but hope it will include a zip line, several slides, some sort of musical element, and rubber mats for accessibility. The new playground will made of plastic, metal, and other non-wooden materials, which should make it safer for youths to use. Future phases may include an outdoor classroom where the park’s car-shaped play-set stands today.

Giacobbo said playgrounds help students practice basic motor skills, risk management, and decision making. The outdoor classroom, if it gets built, should assist teachers in teaching kids about the outdoors and Indigenous culture.

Giacobbo said the school hopes to have the new playground ready by this fall.

Questions on the playground replacement project should go to [email protected].

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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