Community Health

Funding level: Up to $50,000


Our Dream
Students racing out to recess to explore the logs, rocks and other features of their nature-inspired playground. Kindergarteners digging in a proper sand pit, imagining they are archaeologists. Kids playing soccer on green grass, while pairs of students walk along a fully accessible gravel path. An outdoor classroom, a small patch of naturalized garden, French and English signage, a friendship bench where a student can invite a shy classmate to sit and chat. This is what we imagine as we revitalize the schoolyard at Paris Central Elementary School, located in the heart of Paris, Ontario.

Our Reality
Currently, the schoolyard is in a state of disrepair. The pavement is cracked and buckled and edges of broken concrete, including remnants of an old parking lot, jut into play areas. The painted lines for hopscotch, basketball and other games have faded away and the single soccer pitch is potholed and overcrowded at recess by active students who have nowhere else to play. Kindergarten students play in gravel, creating their own “sand” pit by digging a large dirt hole. Groups of students must rotate play on a small, aging play structure to prevent overcrowding. There are no benches, gardens or quiet areas and little is conducive for imaginative play. Drainage issues also prevent students from using large sections of the yard after rainy periods and spring thaw, leading to many cancelled recesses.

Paris Central Elementary School, which first opened its doors in 1904, has 170 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8. Like many schools in a downtown core, Paris Central and its playground are old and outdated compared to the newer schools built to accommodate suburban growth. In the last two decades, Paris Central has twice faced potential closure during Accommodation Reviews by the local school board. Each time, overwhelming support from students, parents, teachers, alumni and neighbouring residents and businesses convinced the school board to keep Paris Central open. A dual-track French Immersion program for Grades 6, 7 and 8 is now underway at the school.

Community Benefits
Paris Central’s playground and schoolyard are used every day of the year. Local children’s sports teams use it for their practices and The County of Brant hosts summer camps and after-school programs on the property, as do nearby churches. On holidays, weekends and evenings, the schoolyard is a gathering place for neighbouring residents and their children. And because Paris Central is close to the library and downtown business community, the schoolyard will become an even more important green space, especially as the town’s population growth continues to outpace the provincial average by approximately 10%.

Why now
Two generations of Paris Central students have started as kindergarteners and graduated Grade 8 without any upgrades to their schoolyard. Students have pride in their small, community school but see their peers in neighbouring schools receive new or upgraded outdoor play structures and areas. Research shows that outdoor and imaginative unstructured play is vital for children’s health and well-being. Such innovative approaches bolster engagement and learning, and are increasingly desired by students and educators. A revitalized playground and schoolyard at Paris Central will be a fully accessible and inclusive place of play where students return to classrooms from recess refreshed and ready to learn. It will become a space that promotes physical and mental health and where teachers are eager to take classes for outdoor learning, tying real world examples to curriculum, from Kindergarten shape identification to Grade 3 plant biology to Grade 8 environmental sustainability. It will also be a vibrant community hub where neighbours, of all ages and abilities, can gather. With the help of the Aviva Community Fund, we will create a space where everyone can play.

Paris Central School Parent Council

Location: Brant