OUSD Turns Asphalt School Playgrounds into Green Spaces


The demolition work is being donated by DPR Construction through a Melrose Leadership Academy parent. Melrose is a K-8 school located at 4730 Fleming Ave. near Mills College in East Oakland.


With less than two weeks to go before the 2018-19 school year begins, schools across Oakland are getting ready. At Melrose Leadership Academy, work is now underway to make the campus green and, in the process, help children learn.

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the Trust for Public Land, and Green Schoolyards America announced a partnership at Melrose, the first of five schools to serve as demonstration sites where asphalt covered schoolyards will be transformed into green spaces or “living schoolyards.”

The partners will also collaborate on a district policy, funding strategy and joint use agreements to ensure more OUSD schoolyards become healthier and more climate resilient.

“Working with the Trust for Public Land, Green Schoolyards America and the community provides OUSD with added resources and technical expertise that we need to improve the learning environment for our students,” said Kyla Johnson-Trammell, OUSD Superintendent. “This effort will also create healthier conditions at our schools and get our students to think more globally and be more environmentally conscious.”

The partnership focuses on increasing equity across OUSD by prioritizing schools that serve low-income neighborhoods.

There are five demonstration schoolyards involved in the project. Emiliano Zapata Street Academy, Markham Elementary School, Melrose Leadership Academy, Ralph J. Bunche High School, and two elementary schools that share a campus, International Community School and Think College Now.
The process will involve receive community engagement, participatory design, asphalt removal and planting. The demonstration schools will also benefit from professional development from Green Schoolyards America’s Principals’ Institute.

Nearly 1,700 students attend these five schools and will directly benefit from the transformation. A total of 30,000 people live within a 10-minute walk of these sites.

“We are excited to begin transforming asphalt-covered schoolyards into park-like outdoor learning environments with trees, gardens and natural material,” said Alejandra Chiesa, Bay Area program director at the Trust for Public Land.

“As a parent, I know schools are where children spend most of their time and everyone deserves a great park within a 10-min walk from home,” she said. “By investing in school ground greening, students and the surrounding community gain daily exposure to nature and all its associated benefits.”

“Our temperature measurements indicate that on a sunny 65-70°F day in Oakland, unshaded asphalt surface temperatures can climb over 115°F and rubber matting is often more than 140°F. These conditions are not conducive to comfort or physical activity and can negatively impact children’s well-being,” said Sharon Danks, executive director of Green Schoolyards America.

“By transforming these asphalt covered schoolyards into park-like environments, we can plant trees to shade and cool hot asphalt and reduce energy costs in adjacent buildings, while also improving the watershed by absorbing rain water. “Living schoolyards” also provide fantastic, engaging, place-based, hands-on learning resources right outside the classroom door, which makes it easier for teachers to immerse children in the natural world every day,” she said.

OUSD’s Deputy Chief of Facilities Tim White said, “OUSD remains committed to providing students with great learning facilities and outdoor spaces. Partnerships like this are essential to overcome some of the funding challenges we face. The need is great and OUSD cannot do it alone. We are extremely grateful for the continued engagement and support of so many non-profit partners and community members that have been working alongside OUSD to improve our schools.”

For more information on the Trust for Public Land, visit www.tpl.org. Information on Green Schoolyards is available at  www.greenschoolyards.org


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