Oakland School News: OUSD unveils new green schoolyard on Earth Day

OUSD to Unveil District’s Outstanding New Green Schoolyard on Earth Day; Press conference scheduled for Tuesday, April 20

Oakland, CA – The Oakland Unified School District is proud to unveil its remarkable new living schoolyard at the Cesar Chavez Education Center in the District of Fruitvale, 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 freshen up the playground and provide shade and seating for the students, a biological ditch designed to channel runoff and remove debris and pollution before emptying 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 education, environmental and health outcomes for the nearly 600 students who attend the International Community School and Think College Now co-located, ”said OUSD. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “The Cesar Chavez Campus with its beautiful natural play structure, grassy field and trees will change the way our students perceive their world and give them a better appreciation of the natural environment around them.”

Earth Day OUSD

“We are delighted to celebrate the opening of the first living schoolyard at the Cesar Chavez Education Center. This new center advances Oakland’s goals of climate resilience, environmental justice, and provides our students with direct access to nature and all of its benefits, ”said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Getting our kids off the asphalt and bringing them into a vibrant natural environment is good for their health, their education and will help them develop environmental stewardship throughout their lives. “

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-based schoolyards. The $ 1,500,000.00 Cesar Chavez Living Schoolyard Project is one of the first fully-built projects to demonstrate OUSD’s vision of transforming asphalt-covered schoolyards into spaces that foster children’s health and well-being, while creating green and ecologically rich community parks that connect children and their neighborhoods to the natural world outside their classroom door.


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 door, 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 but 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 performance but also the well-being of children,” Rodriguez added.

Planning for Cesar Chavez’s Living Schoolyard 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 strengthen the school community by inviting staff, families, students and the surrounding community to dream about what a schoolyard means to them. green, ”said Alejandra Chiesa, Bay Area Program Director with The Confidence for Public Lands. “Engaging the school community was not only fun, it was also educational. We also used the design process to explain to students what environmental stewardship and climate mean 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 around 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 room 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 contribute to extreme heat, worsen air pollution and worsen flooding. As climate change progresses, the three problems, which are intricately interconnected, are expected to worsen.

“We have pretty high levels of asthma,” said Eleanor Alderman, director of the International Community School, which has 277 students, 90 percent 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. “

OUD Acting Facilities Manager Kenya Chatman is delighted to see the genesis of this effort: “Working with people in the community to make these projects happen and move the work forward is the best way to deliver this. kind 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 environments. “

Construction of the new living schoolyard at 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 completed as part of this partnership which aims to increase equity in OUSD by prioritizing schools serving low-income neighborhoods.


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