This is a series of installments on the progress of a new partnership with Trust for Public Land.
Makeover to reimagine Price Middle green space gets underway
By: Luqman Abdur-Rahman
Price Middle School’s schoolyard is packed with potential–and not just for students.
Parks are essential for healthy communities. They are where we exercise and relax, connect with our families, and gather with neighbors to form meaningful relationships. Yet in our nation’s biggest cities, communities of color have access to 44% less park space than majority white communities.
That’s why national nonprofit The Trust for Public Land developed the Community Schoolyards program–and Price Middle School is one of the newest sites to be selected for improvements that will make our outdoor spaces better suited to students and the entire community. Price Middle is one of 10 schools in The Trust for Public Land’s initial phase of Community Schoolyards projects in Atlanta, implemented in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, Urban Land Institute Atlanta and Park Pride. Nationally, the program has helped improve outdoor spaces for hundreds of schools in cities from New York and Philadelphia to Los Angeles and Tacoma.
“About 100 million people who don’t live within walking distance of a park in the United States,” says Jay Wozniak, director of urban parks for The Trust for Public Land in Georgia and expert community space designer. “But almost 20 million of them live within a 10-minute walk of a public school, which already serve as natural gathering places for communities. If every public schoolyard were open to the public, we’d be a fifth of the way to solving the problem of outdoor access. That’s what this program is doing in Atlanta.” The schools in the Atlanta pilot were chosen because of their potential to increase park access and equity.
About 20 Price Middle students kicked off the effort on December 2, 2021. Wozniak and partners from the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management guided participants through a design workshop to evaluate the current site, envision what changes would make it more accessible and appealing, and consider the budget and logistics of improvements.
Community and stakeholder feedback helped refine the plans to improve the Price Middle schoolyard. They provided input on how they wanted the park to look. Additions included shade trees, benches, picnic tables, signs and landscaping upgrades.
On July 9, 2022, Price Middle School hosted 102 Delta Air Lines volunteers installed sections of the split rail fence around the community farm, applied mulch between crops, removed invasive plants along the treeline in the back, picked up trash and removed planters and benches to prepare for future schoolyard improvements.
The renovated schoolyard will serve as vital green space for the entire community. Studies show swapping out blacktop for trees, gardens, and up-to-date play equipment deliver a multitude of benefits to students, from emotional to academic. Teachers and school administrators report that attendance, behavior, and test scores improve following schoolyard renovations. The spaces will be reimagined to also meet the needs of neighbors for use when school is not in session.
The Trust for Public Land expects to spend $2 million renovating the 10 schoolyards, with donations coming from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Delta Air Lines and other supporters. And looking ahead, lessons learned here in Atlanta will inform efforts by The Trust for Public Land to expand the Community Schoolyards program in Georgia so that utilizing schoolyards as a hub for community empowerment, improved health and education, and climate resiliency becomes standard practice.