A landmark Memorandum of Understanding signed between local school and local Rotary

At a landmark signing ceremony yesterday morning (Sept. 13) at G.C. Huston Public School, Southampton Rotary Club President, Dave Bertrand, and School Principal, Hugh Morrison, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to embark on an ambitious project to build an inclusive school playground that will benefit all students, regardless of their abilities.

   (L) Flo Boldt and (C) Miikin Johnson watch as Principal Hugh Morrison (L) & Rotary President Dave Bertrand                                                                    (R) sign Memorandum of Understanding

Student representatives also signed the document.
For larger view, Click on Image

  Principal Hugh Morrison and Rotary Pres. Dave Bertrans seal the deal with a handshake                                       to the delight of student Miikun Johnson

The estimated cost of this project is approximately $115,000, and the school already has funds in reserve of around $30,000, which they are pledging to help make this playground a reality. With Rotary’s participation, there is a partnership opportunity to bridge the remaining $85,000 shortfall.

            Official signed Memorandum of Understanding – for larger view,                                                              Click on Image

The target is to raise all the funds by Spring, 2024 to enable the School Board to tender and install the play equipment, ready for the new school year in the Fall of 2024.

(L back row) Rotarians Alex Thornburn & Sylvia Sheard, Deputy Mayor & G.C. Huston alumnus Diane Huber, Rotarians Mary Ellen Harrigan & Jenny Amy, Parent Council rep Jeff Carver, Rotarians Trish Saunders, Bob Speight, Wendy Buckley and Tony Sheard (L front row)student Flo Boldt, Principal Hugh Morrison, student Miikun Johnson, Rotary Pres. Dave Bertrand and student River Boldt – for larger view, Click on Image

President Bertrand  said, “The Southampton Rotary Club looks forward to working with G.C. Huston and our communities, to construct a state-of-the-art playground structure that will keep our Huston Hawks swinging, climbing and having fun being active, for many years to come. Southampton Rotary eagerly embraces the challenge of raising $85,000 for the project, which is $1,000 for every year of the club’s 85-year existence.”

Principal Hugh Morrison emphasized, “Our enduring alliance with Southampton Rotary makes them the perfect partner in turning this playground dream into a reality. Playgrounds aren’t just play; they’re classrooms for life skills. They foster creativity, social interaction, and problem-solving, vital elements for a child’s development. Unfortunately, school playgrounds rely on community support, as they’re not funded by the School Board.”

He went on to say, “We believe that we have a special school. Like most schools, we work hard on traditional classroom subjects making sure our students can read, write, do math, and solve problems that are relevant in the world. Currently, we have 370 students and we are seeing consistent growth every year. What makes our school unique, however, is that 45% of our school population joins us from Saugeen First Nation giving us a moral imperative to live in reconciliation and to teach students to live together embracing diversity. We learn together, laugh together, love each other, and drive change in our community.

Returning from Covid, we noticed an important connection between physical activity, time outside, and positive mental health. While much of the learning that happens in a school is planned and intentional, some key learning happens when students are active and engage in play together. Often the first step to friendship is a simple smile when children play together.”

                                                     Today’s playground

Morrison explained that a challenge to the special moments of play is “… our playground has become dilapidated. Much of our playground equipment has been removed as it was too old and unsafe.  We know the deep care that the communities of Saugeen First Nation and Southampton have for our school. With the support and partnership of the Rotary Club, we believe we can create an area that will be enjoyed by families for years to come. Everyone can play! Everyone can be friends!”

Deputy Mayor and an alumnus student of G. C. Huston School said that it was a very exciting project.  “I am very excited to see the project come to fruition and I hope that, in some way, it can be attuned to nature so that it’s as ‘natural’ as possible.”

The Rotary Club will lead the fundraising effort in partnership with the School and will also dedicate the proceeds from the Club’s “Fund a Need” at the Club’s Annual Dinner Auction, to be held at the Walker House on Saturday, October 28th, to the project.