California Schools to Get More Shade and Nature to Protect Kids From Extreme Heat

Sacramento, CA…More shade is coming to California schools. Governor Gavin Newsom today announced CAL FIRE is providing $47 million in grants to help schools convert asphalt to green spaces and plant trees and other vegetation – adding cooler spaces essential to protecting kids from dangerous extreme heat.

California’s kids are often disproportionately impacted by extreme heat at schools and these investments boost nature-based designs on school campuses to promote children’s safe physical activity, mental health, and overall wellbeing.

This is the first round of California’s $117 million Green Schoolyard Grant program, which helps schools convert pavement to green spaces, create drought-tolerant natural areas on school grounds, and other activities to help children connect to nature. The program is part of the Governor’s Extreme Heat Action Plan, which is backed by the $52.3 billion California Climate Commitment budget.

What Governor Newsom said: “California is heading into a hotter, drier future and extreme heat will only become more dangerous. We’re taking action to protect our kids – especially in underserved communities – from hotter temperatures with our best defense: nature. We’re helping schools tear out asphalt that can reach 140 degrees on hot days – planting trees for shade and adding other plants to provide kids with safer, cooler spaces at school.”

What First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom said: “School greening is a win-win for California students, communities, and the environment. By cooling and shading outdoor areas, we’re mitigating the dangerous impacts of extreme heat and pollution all while expanding students’ access to the benefits of play and hands-on learning opportunities like garden education. Investments in green spaces where children can safely learn, move, and explore, nurture their physical and mental well-being and bolster long-term community health and resiliency.”

What CAL FIRE Director and Fire Chief Joe Tyler said: “These innovative investments set the state on a path to creating green schoolyards where they are needed most—in our urban centers and in disadvantaged and underserved communities. Creating schoolyards where children can safely be outside, protected from extreme heat and surrounded by vegetation instead of concrete is something CAL FIRE is proud to support, and is something every child should be able to experience at school where they learn and grow.”

What Green Schoolyards of America said: “California’s public school grounds cover nearly 130,000 acres and play a central role in the daily lives of more than 5.8 million children. Much of this land is paved and unshaded, leaving vulnerable students across the state exposed to extreme heat,” said Alejandra Chiesa, California State Director for Green Schoolyards America. “We applaud California and CAL FIRE for creating this much needed and unprecedented grant program which will bring nature to school grounds, improving students’ education and mental and physical wellbeing while strengthening their communities’ ecological health and climate resilience.”

This first round of awards includes six implementation projects and nine planning projects on 100 schoolyards statewide. Examples of awards include implementation projects in some of the state’s largest school districts: Los Angeles and San Francisco Unified. These projects will engage students and staff to design and implement park-like spaces with shade trees and inviting outdoor spaces for learning, exploration, and play, as well as improve the overall environment.

For a full list of awarded projects in this first round, visit the project list here.

For more information on the Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program or to sign up for the email list, please visit the UC&F website.