Oakland School News: OUSD unveils new green schoolyard to celebrate Earth Day


OUSD will unveil the district’s remarkable new green schoolyard on Earth Day; Press conference scheduled for Tuesday, April 20

Oakland, California – The Oakland Unified School District is proud to unveil its remarkable new, vibrant schoolyard at the Cesar Chavez Education Center in the Fruitvale district, the district’s first. Newly transformed living schoolyard removed 13,000 square feet of asphalt and replaced it with natural play areas, a mini grass field, 58 new trees to cool the playground and provide shade and seating areas for students, a bioswale designed to channel stormwater runoff and remove debris and pollution before flowing into the bay, and a new outdoor classroom with an orchard and planters for the education.

“We are delighted to celebrate the new green schoolyard on the Cesar Chavez campus and how it will improve the educational, environmental and health outcomes of the nearly 600 students who attend International Community School and Think College Now,” OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said. “The Cesar Chavez Campus with its beautiful natural play structure, grass field and trees will change the way our students see their world and give them a deeper appreciation for the natural environment around them.

Earth Day OUSD

“We are delighted to celebrate the opening of the first living schoolyard at the Cesar Chavez educational center. This new center advances Oakland’s goals of climate resilience, environmental justice, and gives our students direct access to nature and all of its benefits, ”said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Taking our children out of the asphalt and placing them in a dynamic environment based on nature is good for their health, their education and will help them to develop permanent environmental management.”

In 2017, the district partnered with The Trust for Public Land and Green Schoolyards America to launch a Living Schoolyards initiative in Oakland to transform asphalt-covered playgrounds into vibrant nature-focused schoolyards. The $ 1,500.00 Cesar Chavez Living Schoolyard Project is one of the first fully-built projects to demonstrate OUSD’s vision of transforming asphalt-covered school grounds into spaces that promote health and child well-being, while creating green and ecologically rich community parks that connect children and their neighborhoods to the natural world outside their classroom.

OUSD News
OUSD News

In 2019, the OUSD Education Council unanimously approved a first state policy approving the development of green school grounds. “School grounds will have living schoolyards that support 21st century education; promote the health, well-being and joy of children; and operate as ecologically rich community schools that connect children and their neighborhoods to the natural world right outside their classroom, every day, ”the policy says.

“I applaud Oakland Unified for being the first school district in California to adopt a green schoolyard policy to ensure that students, teachers and staff have quality, healthy facilities that not only benefit the school. school, but also to the surrounding community and environment, ”said Guillermo Rodriguez, Director of the State of California at the Trust for Public Land. “I hope other school districts will learn from and replicate what Oakland is doing to improve not only academic outcomes, but the well-being of children as well,” Rodriguez added.

Planning for the living schoolyard in Cesar Chavez began three years ago by engaging the entire school community in the design process. “Not only did we build a green schoolyard, but we helped build a stronger school community by inviting staff, families, students and the surrounding community to dream of what a green schoolyard is. means to them, ”said Alejandra Chiesa, The Confidence Bay Area Program Director for Public Lands. “Involving the school community was not only fun, it was also educational. We also used the design process to talk to students about what environmental and climate stewardship means to them and how we can redesign their playground to be both a place for fun and a place that improves. the environment, ”added Chiesa.

“Before the renovation, if you walked past the campus, you would essentially see a huge, long slab of asphalt,” said Karen Schreiner, principal of Think College Now elementary school. “There was no shade. There was no place for the children to rest and it was very hot.

In fall 2019, students at International Community School, a bilingual elementary school, recorded surface temperatures ranging from 109 degrees on the asphalt-covered playground to 115 degrees on the plastic slide. A lack of trees and vegetation can lead to extreme heat and worsen air pollution and worsen flooding. As climate change progresses, the three problems – which are intricately interconnected – are expected to become more serious.

“We have pretty high asthma levels,” said Eleanor Alderman, principal of the International Community School, which has 277 students, 90% of whom are entitled to a free or reduced price lunch. “Being able to have clean air and natural play areas will benefit not only the students, but the entire community around our campus.”

OUSD Acting Facilities Manager Kenya Chatman is happy to see the genesis of this effort: “Working with people in the community to carry out these projects and move the work forward is the best way to deliver. this type of benefit because the community is so deeply invested. The district cannot do it alone and we depend on our partners, our funders and most importantly, the school communities to help us take care of our school environment.

Construction of the new living schoolyard in Cesar Chavez was funded by an urban greening grant from the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Coastal Conservancy and private donations.

On April 14, the California Natural Resources Agency announced a grant of $ 1.1 million to fund a similar renovation at Bridges Academy. Including this recent award, The Trust for Public Land has raised over $ 5 million in public grants from the California Coastal Conservancy and Natural Resources Agency and private philanthropy from the Hellman Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, The Joseph & Vera Long Foundation. , Youth Outside, Union Bank, and other funders and supporters, including the California Trust for Public Land Advisory Board, to transform other schools in the district. Markham Elementary, Melrose Leadership Academy and Bridges Academy are the next Living Schoolyards projects to be implemented as part of this partnership which focuses on increasing equity in OUSD by prioritizing schools that serve low income neighborhoods.

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