SOUTH AUSTIN — A West Side elementary school got a green upgrade Saturday after 80 volunteers planted more than 2,000 shrubs and plats as part of a pilot program to improve its play area.
George Leland Elementary, 512 S Lavergne Ave., is among four elementary schools in Chicago that each received $1.5 million dollars to improve the play areas as part of a program called Space to Grow.
The Space to Grow initiative was a collaborative effort led by Healthy Schools campaign and Openlands to transform Chicago school yards into vibrant outdoor spaces that benefit students and the community, organizers said.
“We really believe all neighborhoods deserve having green spaces,” said Jill Alread, president at Openlands. “It brings green space to densely populated urban areas. Everyone benefits, the children, the school and the community.”
This pilot program could to serve as national model to demonstrate the positive impact of green spaces in urban areas, Alread said. While there are no concrete plans to expand the program, organizers said they hope it could be implemented at other schools in the future.
The physical work on the initiative began this summer at each school and was completed Saturday. The other Chicago schools to receive funding were Morrill Elementary School, Grissom Elementary School and Schmid Elementary.
The new active play areas incorporate features that capture significant amount of rainfall, and allow the water to seep naturally back into the environment rather than causing flooding, said Brandon Hayes, Openlands director of communications.
On Tuesday and Thursday, Leland students, teachers and staff helped with planting some of the 4,000 new vegetation on the schools campus.
"I came out here just a week-and a-half ago to check it out, and the kids were having a ball," said Barbara McGowan, commissioner and vice president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. “There are no losers today, everyone wins.
“The children win, the community wins and the schools win. Everyone wins.”
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