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Dozens of schools around British Columbia will have new government-funded playgrounds by the time students return to class in September.

Premier John Horgan announced Tuesday that his government has created a $5-million fund for ongoing support of playgrounds, lifting the burden off volunteer-run parent councils who often have to fundraise for new or upgraded equipment.

Horgan made the announcement in the playground area at Victoria’s Quadra Elementary School.

Education Minister Rob Fleming says the fund provides access to communities who don’t often have the ability to buy playground equipment.

He says it allows parent councils to now use money raised in bake sales, bottle drives and raffles for other school projects.

Jen Mezei, president of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, says parents have advocated for a playground relief fund for more than a decade, and playgrounds should not be dependent on a school community’s capacity to raise money.

“The new playground equipment program recognizes the pressure on parents to fundraise to replace aging and unsafe playground structures,” says Mezei. “A child’s access to a safe playground should not be dependent on ability or disability.”

Horgan says all students deserve quality, safe and accessible playgrounds at their schools, no matter how much parents can fundraise.

“That’s why we’re lifting the burden off of parents by investing $5-million today, and every year moving forward, to build playgrounds where they are needed most.”

The program will provide new or upgraded playgrounds at 51 schools in time for the start of the new school year, with 25 of them receiving $105,000 so that we can build universally accessible playgrounds.

The remaining 26 schools will receive $90,000 each for playground upgrades, Horgan says.

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