Schools define neighbourhoods.
When the city went through its spate of school closures a few years ago, what made it such a gut-wrenching experience is that neighbourhoods weren’t just losing a school, they were losing their identity.
That happened again last year with Highglen Elementary. However, this time the community lost its school to fire, not the budget axe. Highglen students, and the Montesorri program, moved up the hill into Gladstone in College Heights, to form a new community.
But something was left behind at Highglen … the playground. Even though the school was shuttered, the playground equipment remained and Highglen remained as a place neighbourhood kids could go and have some fun (although not as much fun as going to class and learning something).
The Highglen neighbourhood remained somewhat intact.
That was until this week when the school district started to dismantle the playground equipment. Loaders came in and took down the swings, basketball hoops, dug up the concrete, etc., leaving not much more than a gravel field.
“The major playground structure is being moved to the Montessori School at the Gladstone Elementary site,” wrote Allan Reed, School District 57 secretary-treasurer in a letter to a resident in the area. “… Other minor playground equipment is also being removed from the site. This action is part of the demolition project related to the demolition of Highglen Elementary School that was damaged by fire on April 22, 2013. The other minor playground equipment that is being removed no longer meets current Canadian Standards Association (CSA) safety standards. The Board of Education is guided by its Policy 7223, Playgrounds. Regulation 1 confirms that the prime consideration for the equipment and structures of playgrounds in the safety of children.
“Also, as required by the Ministry of Education’s capital project for the demolition of the former Highglen Elementary School the site is being returned to its natural state as it is no longer an active school.”
It’s not hard to understand the school district’s reasoning. Since the school has been demolished, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the school district to maintain a playground at the site.
However, it’s still a loss for the Highglen neighbourhood as kids in the area are losing a place that they could go hang out and play, which beats being cloistered in the basement rec room playing Warcraft MDCLXXXVIII for MDCLXXXVIII days on end.
Highglen will become the proverbial “empty lot.”
The school district will, almost undoubtedly, put it on the market as it looks for cash that the province continually strips away. Once on the open market, who knows what will become of the site? What is almost certain, however, is that the esotericism of what was Highglen will be gone.
And that is just sad.