Parents group seeks more shade on school campuses

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — A parents coalition is demanding more green space and shade on playgrounds in the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying the district must take “bold action” to protect students.

Reclaim Our Schools LA — an association of parents, educators, students and community members — contends that the LAUSD is “completely unprepared” to deal with the extreme heat conditions experienced earlier this month in the Southland.

“If you think about what it feels like to be in a parking lot on a hot day, this is what kids all over Los Angeles experience every day,” said coalition member Aleigh Lewis, co-founder of Angelenos for Green Schools and a parent of two elementary school students. “These low-maintenance school yards are often the hottest in any neighborhood.”

For students to be able to learn, she said, “They have to be healthy. Green schoolyards are also incredible sites for learning. What is more relevant than kids being able to play outside?”

The comments came at a live-streamed news conference held Sept. 7 outside Lorena Street Elementary School in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. Members of the group said the school is among the district sites most in need of green space and shade.

Reclaim Our Schools called for LAUSD to “de-asphalt” campuses, charging that hot, unshaded asphalt playgrounds are detrimental to both education and health.

“Our children come home very hot, and sometimes they don’t want to do their homework,” said retired LAUSD teacher and United Teachers Los Angeles member Lucy Garcia, a leader of the Climate Reality Project. “Our children do not need to be in this heat wave.”

Schoolyards are often the hottest locations in communities due to the large swaths of asphalt, researchers have found. More than 600 schools are listed on LAUSD’s “Greening Index,” which ranks campuses in order of the most asphalt and least amount of green space. Most of the 150 schools in “very high need” are in South and East Los Angeles, where park space is scarce.

“We appreciate the advocacy and partnership by community organizations, and we encourage our local, state and federal elected officials to prioritize greening infrastructure investments in schools and our communities, and develop climate change solutions for California and beyond,” the LAUSD said in a statement. “The recent extreme heat wave highlights the importance of the investments Los Angeles Unified is making for the long-term.”

LAUSD said the district continues to “prioritize” the upgrade and replacement of air conditioning and heating systems, and is working to “accelerate campus greening” and remove asphalt from schoolyards.

Reclaim Our Schools LA member Maura Howe, who works with the advocacy group Students Deserve, said that while district officials have long “promised change,” students are “still suffering.”

 

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