School District Green Initiatives Reflect a Revitalized Focus on Improved Outdoor Spaces for Students
PHILADELPHIA – School officials presented a summary of more than a decade of investment in schoolyard improvements across The School District of Philadelphia on Thursday, culminating in almost 100 completed and new projects under the Office of Capital Programs.
Members of the School Reform Commission (SRC) voted to approve donations from both the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates to revamp the playground at Lewis Elkin Elementary School. The new outdoor space will include a new playground, outdoor classroom, exterior murals and mosaic tile tables, and a synthetic turf field.
“The improvements across our District reflect our dedication to providing healthy and safe school environments conducive to teaching and learning,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia. “We want to create more green spaces where children can play, in an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective manner, and incorporate outdoor space as learning space wherever possible.”
The District’s Director of Capital Programs, Danielle Floyd, gave a presentation during the SRC meeting about progress on various projects at schools around the city.
“Since 2004, we have invested $8.75 million in new and potential greening and constructed play spaces at school campuses across the District,” said Floyd. “That translates to 67 projects completed with our partners and partner organizations, including 22 campus parks, 21 stormwater improvements and 24 playgrounds. We also have almost 30 additional projects in design, or under construction. Our mission has been a great school close to where children live, and these projects provide greats spaces for our students to play as well.”
While the District’s Office of Capital Programs and relationships with the Eagles, and other public-private partnerships, have led to the increase in available greenspaces, there is another important contributing factor.
Through direct District capital investment, and in alignment with the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters Plan, the focus has been on stormwater management and de-paving, primarily in campus parks. In conjunction with the District’s dedication to increased community involvement, the District has worked with local “Friends of” and HSA organizations to design and revitalize school playgrounds.
“There’s been such an upswing in local interest in these initiatives, the District has added a full-time landscape architect to serve as the point person for these projects, and created an online fundraising and grant guide and annual forum to help communities help each other reach their greening goals,” Floyd added.