Students from St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School seek shelter from the afternoon sun under their new outdoor learning pavilion. Photo courtesy of Vince Trocchi

Community kicks in to redo Goderich school yard

By 
  • October 6, 2012

A new outdoor learning pavilion unveiled this September at Goderich, Ont.’s St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School symbolizes the community’s commitment to the town’s boast that it is Canada’s prettiest town.

“That pavilion to me ... symbolizes what a community can do when it pulls together,” said Vince Trocchi, St. Mary’s principal. “There is community pride and this school is a big part of the community and that’s why it is important to them. It looks just beautiful out in our yard.”

For the past three years the local parent council had been working towards upgrading the school’s outdated playground. When opportunity to partner with the school board to build an outdoor learning pavilion came up, it seemed like a natural fit.

With the board offering to match funds raised for a pavilion, which costs between $20,000 and $25,000, the St. Mary’s Parent Council turned to members of the picturesque community on the shores of Lake Huron to meet its $10,000 fundraising goal. Most of the money was gathered during the last school year.

“The board matched our fundraising efforts and what you see is the fruits of our labour in our yard and family and students just absolutely love it,” said Trocchi.

St. Mary’s is one of 12 schools across the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board to partner with the board to build the pavilions.

“We did it on a phase-in process because obviously the dollars needed to be allocated on a yearly basis,” said Martha Dutrizac, director of education of the Huron-Perth board. “We worked with our schools to put a plan in place that would give them the time necessary to collect their dollars.”

Funding from the board’s end came from the capital projects’ budget, said Dutrizac. Once the school’s collected cash, bids to begin construction were sought from local contractors.

The pavilions will be used not only during instructional time but also after hours by the community, provided the intended usage doesn’t conflict with Catholic values. In Goderich not only did the townspeople get behind the project, but the municipality itself offered its support.

“Our custodian made some contacts with people and they hamade some arrangement that (we could use tables that would be stored for the winter) during the school year when tables wouldn’t be in high demand,” said Trocchi. “It’s a win-win for everyone. They don’t need to store it somewhere (because) we’re actually using it and we win because there are really nice tables in our pavilion.”

Trocchi believes if he were to have called on the community again to furnish the pavilion there is no question it would have responded with open wallets.

“We are very pleased that we have this great partnership with our municipality and we are very grateful that they were able to do this for us,” he said. “It was one of those things that, yeah, we probably could have raised the money for it but we have a wonderful community that is willing to help us save those dollars for other items.

“I’m really proud of the way this community has pulled together to help make these kinds of things happen.”

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