Oakland Living Schoolyard Policy
In 2019, the OUSD Board of Education enacted a "Living Schoolyard" policy to ensure that all district school grounds will have living schoolyards. The Board of Education defines living schoolyards as “rich outdoor environments that strengthen local ecological systems, provide hands-on learning resources, and foster a wide range of play and social opportunities while enhancing health and well-being”, and could include elements like trees, gardens, and other spaces designed by and for the use of students and the surrounding communities.
The Superintendent is responsible for the implementation and evaluation of this policy, depending on funding and for providing regular updates to the Board regarding funding, implementation, evaluation of stated outcomes, timelines, and progress of projects. Non-profits, funders, and individual school communities are encouraged to collaborate with each other through fundraising, advocacy, design, construction, stewardship, maintenance, and curriculum integration that supports living schoolyards.
Policy Implementation Timeline:
Create and convene Working Group
When funding is identified
Appoint Interim Living Schoolyards Coordinator
Begin professional development
Create baseline GIS database
Create a prioritized list of future living schoolyard projects
Create Living Schoolyards Design Guidelines and Standards
Negotiate Joint Use Agreement with the City of Oakland
Since 2017, Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) Board of Education has been working with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Green Schoolyards America (GSA) to develop and construct Living Schoolyards at OUSD schools. Over the past three years, TPL has secured over $2 million from several grants including; State Coastal Conservancy; a healthcare company and Hellman Foundation; a grantmaking foundation in the San Francisco Bay. TPL first acquired a grant from the State Coastal Conservancy Prop 1 Grant for $566,000 in 2017, making up 25% of the grant funding. In 2018, CA Natural Resources Urban Greening Grant for $1,186,977 made up 53% of the grant funding, and in 2019, the State Coastal Conservancy Climate Ready Grant for $500,000 made up 22% of the total grant funding. To date, those are the only funds committed to the Oakland Living Schoolyard project. District staff are responsible for developing a funding strategy for the design, construction, and maintenance of living schoolyards. In addition, the Board may explore whether the Living Schoolyard program should be a part of a future capital bond proposal. This policy has an anticipated annual cost of $510,00 for staffing and professional development, a one-time cost of $250,000 for assessments, baseline studies, guidelines, and standards development, and an estimated $1,000,000 per site for capital improvements relating to living schoolyards. All of this funding will be sourced from private and public donations, grants, and the general school budget. Through an appropriate joint use agreement, schools may be able to serve as community resources after hours and on weekends, providing access to nature and recreational opportunities for the surrounding communities as well as OUSD students. The Board will approve a list of priority school sites to receive living schoolyards based on assessments of facilities.