Students at Fishtown’s Alexander Adaire School were joined Tuesday by Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent, The School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Council President Darrell Clarke, and other dignitaries to kick off construction of a new green schoolyard designed for the school and the community it serves.
The Adaire schoolyard is the latest in a citywide partnership among the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and national nonprofit The Trust for Public Land.
These organizations are collaborating to provide green community areas in neighborhoods lacking high-quality outdoor places to play and learn.
The work advances several City priorities, including the School District’s Green Futures Plan, the Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters plan, and the Kenney administration’s vision to create a more equitable citywide network of parks and community spaces throughout Philadelphia.
“The green schoolyard at Adaire School teaches our students firsthand what it means to protect the environment and conserve resources,” said Dr. William R. Hite Jr., Superintendent, The School District of Philadelphia. “It also closely aligns with the goals of the District’s Green Futures plan, which is designed to make our schools and surrounding communities more sustainable. I look forward to working with our City’s Water and Parks & Recreation departments, in addition to The Trust for Public Land, to bring these innovative outdoor spaces to even more of our schools.”
“This schoolyard not only provides enhanced learning opportunities, but also brings a new green space to the community and protects the Delaware River,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “It is a permanent example of how partnerships between City departments and nonprofits can have a positive and lasting impact in our neighborhoods and the environment. This is a great day for the Alexander Adaire School, the Fishtown community and Philadelphia’s waterways.”
The new Adaire schoolyard was designed to provide improved opportunities for recreation and learning and will also capture stormwater on rainy days with new green infrastructure features.
Currently a bare asphalt yard, the new schoolyard will soon include a large rain garden with a nature trail for exploration and learning, play areas, such as a toddler playground with colorful tumbling hills to promote creative play, benches, and a seat wall to provide ample shaded seating for gathering and relaxing.
“When the City partners with neighborhood residents and outside organizations, together we can accomplish almost anything,” said Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis, who played a lead role in launching the partnership. “Not only will these schoolyard improvements bring joy to the children, residents and visitors of the neighborhood, they also support our green stormwater management initiatives and add value to our City’s open spaces.”
In addition to announcing the work at the Adaire schoolyard, the partners also noted plans underway to redesign and improve the neighboring Fishtown Recreation Center.
“During a time of fiscal challenges in the School District, these partners and this community really stepped up to give children the play spaces they deserve,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke said. “I’d like to thank the School District, my colleagues in City government, Adaire staff and supporters, and The Trust for Public Land for coming together and working out a collaborative solution for needed capital improvements with limited funds. It was not always easy, but we figured it out and we’re here today, breaking ground on a new green schoolyard for Adaire and soon to begin much-needed improvements to Fishtown Recreation Center.”
“Friends of Adaire could not be more excited to celebrate this groundbreaking,” said Denis Devine, Friends of Adaire’s volunteer project leader. “It’s been a privilege to work with all of our incredible partners over four years to make this dream a reality. We look forward to the Adaire kids learning and playing on a transformed, green schoolyard, and we look forward to working with the Fishtown community to maintain the park and public access to it throughout the year.”
“The Philadelphia Water Department is proud to support this project through our Stormwater Management Incentives Program,” said Water Department Commissioner Debra McCarty. “Green schoolyard improvements like this protect our rivers from stormwater runoff and teach the next generation of Philadelphia citizens about the importance of improving water quality, making this a win for Fishtown, the environment and all of Philadelphia.”
The transformation of the Adaire schoolyard is one of numerous schoolyards planned for similar transformation. Working with City partners, The Trust for Public Land led the creation of new schoolyards at the William Dick School, the William Cramp School and the John Taggart School in recent years.
The non-profit organization is currently overseeing the design and development of additional outdoor spaces at a dozen other schoolyards and City recreation centers, in park-deprived neighborhoods, including the Fishtown Recreation Center.
Over the next five years, the City and School District partnership with The Trust for Public Land aims to complete as many as 30 green schoolyards and recreation centers.
“Philadelphia’s schoolyards and recreation centers are the natural gathering places for kids and families in our neighborhoods, so they are the ideal place to invest resources to create a healthy community,” said Anthony Cucchi, The Trust for Public Land’s Pennsylvania State Director. “Almost 10,000 Philadelphia residents live within a ten-minute walk of the schoolyard, so these improvements will have far-reaching benefits in addition to helping the Adaire students thrive.”
The citywide partnership is funded by a combination of City, State, and School District sources, leveraged by private funding raised by The Trust for Public Land.
Philanthropic support for the program began with a leadership grant from The William Penn Foundation and The Trust for Public Land continues to lead an ongoing fundraising campaign to support the development of new sites, including support for community participation in the design process and seed funding for stewardship and programming.For more information on Philadelphia’s green infrastructure program, visit the Green City, Clean Waters webpage.