St Francis of Assisi School Council Association
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School is an inner-city school providing K-6 education to approximately 350 students in the Balwin neighbourhood in northeast Edmonton. St. Francis is home to a complex population from a diversity of backgrounds, including over 60% of students self-identifying as Indigenous. These and other students are enrolled in the school’s Nehiyaw Pimatisiwin program, which educates students in Cree language and culture. A further 30% of students come from international locations as refugees and new Canadians.
The Balwin neighbourhood is populated by over 3,800 residents, with 21% of households earning less than $30,000 in annual income. The neighbourhood population is also highly mobile, with less than half of residents having resided at the same address for five years or more. These factors are reflected in the student population of St. Francis of Assisi. A large proportion of our students come from low-income backgrounds, and/or situations in which they were not previously able to attend school consistently. Furthermore, many families move away from the area before students complete their K-6 education.
Following a discouraging ECSD Playground Audit in 2018, our group has been working to replace the school’s deteriorating public playground with all-new safe, modern, and accessible equipment. St. Francis’s playground infrastructure forms a critical link in its continued efforts to anchor, affirm, and improve the experiences of St. Francis students and the Balwin community. The existing playground has exceeded its useful lifetime, lacks accessible design, and is increasingly unsafe for public use.
Our group is a small collection of volunteers from around the city of Edmonton dedicated to improving the lives of St. Francis of Assisi students and Balwin community members. Unlike other schools’ Parent Councils, we simply do not have the manpower or ability to fundraise within our low-income school community. In fact, five of our members do not have children at St. Francis of Assisi – we’ve come together instead because we believe strongly that students at this school and children in this community should have the same opportunities for play as those from more affluent neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, school playgrounds in Alberta are not funded through regular or sustainable education funding, so it is left to parent and community volunteers like us to fundraise for the development of these critical spaces. Completing playground projects thus often takes 3-6 years – a lifetime for students who deserve access to a playground for their entire educational journeys.
Replacing the playground at St. Francis of Assisi will go a long way toward supporting inclusive outdoor recreation in our lower-income community. We’re looking to build a safe, fully accessible play area that children and families from the Balwin community can enjoy together for years to come. These types of free, community-oriented parks are critical for fostering healthy social development, and are often the only recreation option for families with low incomes. Providing access to these facilities is even more important in light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which is having a significant effect on the mental, social, and physical states of our most vulnerable children and families. As we work together to relaunch our society, we must make sure we include these vulnerable groups and do all we can to help them thrive. By providing a barrier-free playground space at St. Francis of Assisi, we’ll be doing our part to include all members of our community – regardless of age, income, background, or physical ability – in the future we build together.
Parks we work in:
- St. Francis of Assisi School Playground
Things we do:
- community meals
- indigenous culture
We're looking for volunteers in these areas:
- Occasional volunteers