The Trust for Public Land, Urban Land Institute Atlanta, Park Pride and Atlanta Public Schools have announced two Atlanta public schools as the pilot sites for their Atlanta Community Schoolyards program — John Wesley Dobbs Elementary and L.O. Kimberly Elementary.

Reimagining community schoolyards is one proven strategy designed to help cities reach the goal of having every resident live within a 10-Minute Walk of a park.  Nationally, The Trust for Public Land has worked in dozens of cities to transform hundreds of schoolyards and make them available to the general public during non-school hours.

“We are thrilled to be included in this partnership,” said Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen. “Our schools are a major part of the neighborhoods in Atlanta, and so it is fitting that the schoolyards and playgrounds at Dobbs Elementary School and L.O. Kimberly Elementary School, along with eight other schools that will participate in the pilot program, will be made accessible to community members after school hours.”

While access to parks in Atlanta continues to improve, 29 percent of residents do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park. The Atlanta Community Schoolyards program aims to improve that number by reimagining schoolyards for public use during non-school hours.

Public school districts are among the largest landowners in almost every city and town across the United States. There are approximately 100,000 public schools in the U.S., but only around 10 percent of schools currently provide the general public with formal access to schoolyard sites. 

“The Trust for Public Land’s experience transforming schoolyards into parks for communities across the country, combined with local knowledge of our partner organizations, will ensure Atlanta’s program will create safe and inviting schoolyards for all,” said George Dusenbury, Georgia state director for The Trust for Public Land. “We are thrilled to help hundreds of families within a 10-Minute Walk of these schools benefit from greater access to safe outdoor recreation areas.”

GIS data was used to identify schools in the city’s most park-poor communities. Carstarphen invited those schools to participate, and two were chosen as pilot sites for the Atlanta Community Schoolyards program.

Over the next six months, schoolchildren and residents from the surrounding communities will design and implement improvements to create inviting, accessible and safe spaces for school-day play and after-hours recreation. Construction will take place next summer.  All told, 10 schools will participate in the pilot program over its three-year lifespan.

“At Delta Air Lines, giving back to the communities where we live, work and serve is part of our culture, and we also believe play is an essential part of learning.  That’s why we are proud to support The Trust for Public Land’s Community Schoolyards program while also supporting a school that is near and dear to our hearts through our partnership with Atlanta Public Schools’ Dobbs Elementary School,” said Tad Hutcheson, Managing Director of Community Engagement at Delta.  “Connections made while playing, whether that is at school or in a neighborhood park after school, create opportunities for kids of all ages to learn necessary social skills that are difficult to attain in other settings.”

Park Pride and The Trust for Public Land are managing the planning and community engagement in transforming the schoolyards into epicenters for the community, a community grant of $40,000 from The Trust for Public Land’s 10 Minute Walk Campaign earlier this year helping to support these efforts.

ULI Atlanta is studying the sidewalks, crosswalks and roads around the pilot schools to recommend ways to improve access so that the 10-minute walk is a safe one. Equitable access to walkable and connected communities within a half-mile radius of the schools is paramount to this vision.

The Atlanta Community Schoolyards program has support from partners in the corporate and philanthropic communities as well. Delta Air Lines has committed to contributing $500,000 over three years and will be actively engaged in planning and implementation.

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has generously contributed a $1 million grant over three years to support The Trust for Public Land’s Community Schoolyards program in Atlanta. This work would not have been possible without the support and partnership of the Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation.

“I’ve always believed that having access to green space and parks brings a level of connection to the outdoors, other people, ourselves, and our community that is so vitally important to our overall well-being,” stated Arthur M. Blank, Chairman, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. “We are happy to support the Trust for Public Land in their efforts to enhance an underutilized asset to increase those opportunities for more individuals around Atlanta.”

Andrew White, registered landscape architect and Park Pride’s Director of Park Visioning, said, “Great parks and park-like spaces meet the needs of the communities of which they’re a part. We can’t wait to work with the kids, the school leadership, and members of the neighborhood to hear their ideas for schoolyard improvements that will bring people together and be enjoyed by everyone.”

 

 

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