Porterville Unified School District awarded $3.6 million 'Green Schoolyard Grant'

Changes will include more than 200 trees, 135,000 square feet of pathways, and 100,000 square feet in drought-tolerant landscapes.

Jessica Harrington Image
Thursday, September 21, 2023
Porterville Unified School District awarded $3.6 million 'Green Schoolyard Grant'
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Some outdated playgrounds in the Porterville Unified School District are about to be a thing of the past.

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Some outdated playgrounds in the Porterville Unified School District are about to be a thing of the past.

PUSD is one of the recipients of the California 'Green Schoolyard Grant' program.

"It's a game changer for the district where we can do work that we otherwise wouldn't be able to do work," PUSD Asst. Superintendent Business Services Brad Rohrbach said.

Rohrbach says the district applied for the grant because of a partnership with Climate Action Pathways for Schools or CAPS.

The district has a goal to reach an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 and reduce energy costs.

This nearly $3.6 million grant will help with that.

The grant aims to reduce the amount of asphalt on school campuses and increase the amount of nature.

Julie Gowin, CAL FIRE Urban Forestry Supervisor, says this program is all about the students.

"The goal of the program is to create a healthier environment for our children," Gowin said.

Gowin says putting children in nature allows their natural curiosity to thrive.

"They're going to be more physically active, more mentally balanced and that means that they can learn better, even in the classroom," Gowin said.

PUSD is one of 29 school districts that were awarded the grant.

Five elementary schools will benefit from the funding, including West Putnum, Belleview, Olive Street, Santa Fe and Doyle.

"The five schools that were selected, they're the ones with the highest needs right now," Rohrbach said.

Changes across the five sites will include more than 200 trees, 135,000 square feet of pathways, and 100,000 square feet in drought-tolerant landscapes.

Students in PUSD's Pathways program will also be part of the change through hands-on work and gathering input on the changes.

"Some of these playgrounds and play fields haven't been updated in decades, so it's one of those things where it really gives us a huge lift in making these improvements that otherwise wouldn't be able to do," Rohrbach said.

Construction will begin next spring and summer.

All of the changes will be complete no later than March of 2026.

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