In #RaiseMKE

Westside Academy on North 31st Street is among the schools participating in the initiative to green MPS school sites. (PHOTO: Reflo)

MPS launches big push to green more school playgrounds

Along with a long list of collaborators, Milwaukee Public Schools is announcing a multimillion-dollar investment in green schoolyards on Tuesday as part of an ongoing program to complete projects that will enhance school landscapes, create outdoor learning spaces and improve the environmental impact of school grounds by replacing asphalt with green spaces.

Milwaukee Public Schools and the MPS Foundation are joined by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the City of Milwaukee, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Sustain Our Great Lakes Program, Fund for Lake Michigan, Reflo, Funders' Network – Partners for Places Grant, the Burke Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, along with private donations, in-kind contributions and school fundraising efforts to make the projects happen.

So far, about half of the $3.4 million required has been raised with another $1.7 million needed in the next six months to fund the projects through 2020.

According to a release from the district, "Improvements will include installation of bioswales to manage stormwater, the addition of outdoor classrooms, tree plantings, areas to serve as school gardens and plans for curriculum that will incorporate ecology, sustainability and freshwater sciences. The improvements will impact neighborhoods, provide community access, and improve the quality of life in the city."

The schools involved in the projects – which are at various stages (see chart below) – include Academy of Accelerated Learning, Allen-Field, Bay View Montessori, Escuela Fratney, North Division High, Clement Avenue, Doerfler, Golda Meir, Vincent High, Westside Academy, Burdick, Hawley Environmental, Longfellow, Starms Early Childhood Center, Escuela Vieau and Bradley Tech High.

These schools join a number of previous successes at schools like Parkside in Bay View, Maryland Avenue Montessori on the East Side, 81st Street School on the West Side, and Brown Street Academy and Lloyd Barbee Montessori on the North Side, to name but a few.

As a longtime supporter of these projects, I'm excited to see such a big, concerted effort to bring these improved landscapes to schools all around the city.

Research suggests that urban kids whose schools afford green spaces for learning and play help boost fitness levels, mental health and well-being, improve social and emotional development and improve academic performance, focus and behavior.

That, along with stormwater runoff abatement, helps us all.

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