Thirteen months after losing their playground to a fire, students and staff at A.E. Bowers Elementary School celebrated the opening of their new playground Sept. 17.
"Our students and our community members are overjoyed with the new playground," said principal Jocelyn Littlefair.
The school's old playground was set on fire Aug. 15, 2019. The incident was deemed arson and a then-14-year-old girl from Airdrie – who could not be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act – was charged for the crime, as well as assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes.
The fire left A.E. Bowers students without a primary playground for the entirety of the last school year. However, Littlefair said younger students were still able to use a smaller play structure on the south end of the school grounds, while older students had other recreational amenities to take advantage of.
"A.E. Bowers Elementary School is very fortunate to have such a beautiful space," she said. "While there was no playground on the west field last year for the older students to enjoy, the students were able to enjoy the use of the basketball court, the soccer fields and the baseball diamond throughout.
"We were also grateful to our school council for their donation of our mobile play cart that allowed our students to use additional toys – balls, hula hoops, chalk and tools to make snow forts – for the year."
The new, redesigned playground features two spiderweb-like climbing features, according to Littlefair, as well as two slides, a rope climb, various forms of monkey bars, bridges, landing spaces and additional interactive components.
"It is exciting to see the students explore and enjoy their new space," she said. "The play structure also features infinity turf, which is a very welcomed addition."
Todd Brand, an Airdrie-area trustee for Rocky View Schools (RVS), said the new playground will be a welcome addition.
“In recent months, we have become more aware of how important our playgrounds are to our communities," he stated in an RVS press release. "This new equipment will offer much joy and health for our students."
In order to abide by health and safety protocols brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Littlefair said A.E. Bowers has structured its school day to "support students to be both safe and kind while playing outside." For example, she said, students and staff follow a defined cohort model, which includes handwashing before and after each playtime, defined schedules and zones to reduce capacity in each area and increased supervision to support student safety.
"Even in these difficult times, our staff, students, and families are really coming together to support these procedures to enable our students to enjoy their learning and enjoy each other at school," she said.