It was two steps forward and one step back for Penticton’s French immersion preschool, Societe de la Petite Enfance de L’ecole Entre Lacs (SPEEEL), when it came to installing their new shaded play area thanks to some seemingly senseless vandalism.
The preschool operates out of the Ecole Entre-Lacs school, located at 1213 Debeck Rd., but the green space where the new structure is installed services only the preschool students and those in before and after school care programs.
Alex Piggin, a parent and volunteer board member with SPEEL, took on the request to procure and oversee the addition of an outdoor shade structure, a resilient surface for a play structure and sheds for bike and scooter storage for the preschool in September, and said just when everything was falling into place, vandals set the project back.
“Over the weekend (on Nov. 23 and 24) some people decided to break into the area and knock down the posts (for the shade structure) that were waiting for concrete and then tried to set fire to the timber that had been set up to support the posts,” wrote Piggin in a Facebook post to a local group in the city. “(They) left a heck of a mess at the same time.”
Piggin explained that SPEEEL has been fundraising for a while to see this project come to fruition, and relied on donations of labour, equipment and supplies from Radec Group, RONA Penticton and others.
“When it all came together, we started the project on Nov. 22 and were hoping to do it in a day,” said Piggin. “Radec found someone able to donate the concrete, but it needed to wait until the Monday (Nov. 25). So the posts (for the shade structure) were put into the ground and levelled and everything by Radec, and they were framed with support materials so that the concrete could be poured around the bottom.”
When Piggin and others with the school discovered on Nov. 25 that the posts had been knocked over and the other materials were partially burned, they thought all of their efforts and the charitable donations by local businesses were wasted. She estimates that the value of the time, labour, equipment and materials would have cost the school thousands of dollars.
“I was absolutely gutted, I put a lot of time and effort into this that I didn’t necessarily have. And then for someone to just go and undo it when it’s for little kids,” said Piggin. “So I called Radec and they agreed to come back and fix the posts again on Nov. 25. Then thankfully the concrete was poured around lunch time that day.”
|The shade area at the Penticton French immersion preschool is nearly finished, thanks to the donated time, equipment and material from local businesses. The shade structure will be added to the posts before the end of the year, once the concrete bases have a chance to set in the cold weather. (Contributed)|
“In the end it worked out to be more of an inconvenience, but it was more the act itself in that someone had the audacity to think that it was a good or a bad idea and did it anyway, knowing it’s a public kids’ area.”
Piggin said she is unsure if the preschool filed a report with the RCMP about the vandalism, but said she is happy the project was able to persevere despite it.
She said they are waiting to add the shade structure to the posts, to allow time for the concrete to set in the cold weather. She believes they should be installed before the end of the year for use in the spring.
The remaining concern was in finding a company to volunteer to re-install the fence around the school’s play area, leaving the space open to more possible vandalism. Piggin said on Dec. 4 that Barricade Contracting has volunteered its services to fix the fence within the next day or two.
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