All Leo Blyth wants for a back-to-school gift this September is something to do during recess.
A set of monkey bars to hang from. A pole to climb. Some swings and, perhaps, a pool if he can lobby his principal for one.
For the Grade 2 King Edward School student and his peers, recess has otherwise become a bit boring since vandals destroyed the school’s play structure last May.
"It’s been a little bit sad," said Blyth.
This summer, school officials are hoping to turn the sod on the first phase of an ambitious park-like overhaul of the schoolyard, complete with boulders and bridges, community gardens and medicine gardens, and an outdoor amphitheatre.
"They have nothing. We have three tetherball poles. That’s pretty much it," said school principal Aaron Benarroch, adding the school has staggered gym use between grades to help ease the recess blues for students.
"It’s been really difficult."
The school has so far raised $160,000, about half of the project’s anticipated cost and enough to start the work, Benarroch said.
To help raise the rest needed to complete the project, the school is starting to accept bids on a custom-made guitar crafted by Lord Selkirk Junior High students that was autographed by Winnipeg Jets players and owner Mark Chipman.
"It’s a one-of-a-kind piece. There are no others like it," Benarroch said.
Though the tender for construction has yet to go out, the school is looking to start redeveloping the northwest corner of its field into a shaded family picnic space and a spruce tree windbreak with log stumps, boulders, balancing logs and a wiggle wall for kids.
Later phases of the redevelopment include the installation of swings, teeter-totters, a climbing net, and a small basketball court. There will also be a new sand play area for kindergarten and nursery students.
"We’re not going for one big, monster structure," Benarroch said, noting giving kids more play options helps to reduce bullying and aggression.
"We emphasize that we’re a bully-free school. Part of the strategy to do that is giving them options."
The area was designed with input from students, staff, parents and outside community members and groups.
The school, located at 825 Selkirk Ave., plans to build a series of gardens which outside groups plan to use as gardens to grow vegetables and traditional medicines to support programs in the community.
"This is something special for the North End," Benarroch said.
"(Families) want a place to go where their kids can play, where they can gather safely."
Grade 6 student Sheri Shorting won’t be coming back for classes at King Edward in September, but hopes younger students will soon have better things to do than stay inside for recess.
"They need something to play on," she said.
Those interested in making a bid on the guitar can contact the school at 204-586-8381.
The school is planning a public showcase for the guitar in the future, Benarroch said.