Monday, November 21, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Providence City Council President John Igliozzi (Ward 7), Providence City Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Providence Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez, Providence Parks Department Superintendent Wendy Nilsson, Providence Healthy Communities Office Deputy Director Rachel Newman Green, Robert L. Bailey IV Elementary School Principal Alicia Jones, and RIHousing Executive Director Carol Ventura today celebrated the opening of Providence’s first Green Schoolyard at Bailey Elementary School and Baxter Park.
“Parks continue to be one of the most critical investments we can prioritize in our city,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “I am so proud to cut the ribbon on the City’s first green schoolyard, and I’m excited that work is already underway to have even more of these beautiful spaces for learning and play right here in Providence.”
The Bailey Baxter Green Schoolyard is the flagship project of the Providence Green Schoolyards Initiative. By creating this green schoolyard, Providence joins cities such as Chicago, New York and Oakland in developing formerly under-resourced urban school grounds into unique nature spaces that improve student learning outcomes, community health and neighborhood pride. Following the model established by the Children & Nature Network, Providence Green Schoolyards will be multi-functional school grounds professionally designed for and by each school community. Providence Green Schoolyards will offer places for students, teachers, parents and community members to play, learn, explore and grow.
“This innovative new schoolyard is a welcomed addition to the Ward 10 community and an inventive use of previously undeveloped property,” said Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal. “I am excited for generations of local families to have an environmentally friendly new place to have fun and explore.”
Through this project, Baxter Park was expanded to incorporate two adjacent, previously-blighted properties, and the Bailey School playground was also expanded into two additional lots. The connections between these two play and green spaces were improved through the temporary closure of Baxter Street during school hours to increase accessibility and safety between the play areas. Other improvements include the creation of two outdoor learning spaces, a multi-use field, two state-of-the-art playgrounds including nature play elements, a walking path, site furnishings, green infrastructure, landscaping with native flowering plants and trees, new perimeter fencing and sidewalks with new street trees.
“The Bailey Community is grateful to have a beautiful new outdoor playspace and we wish to thank those who made this possible for us. The play structures will increase physical activity, improve motor skills, and address students’ sensory needs while the open play area will allow for more creative play,” said Robert L. Bailey IV Elementary School Principal Alicia Jones. “Students’ social and emotional skills will improve as they navigate play with their peers. The outdoor learning spaces bring learning outside of the traditional classroom setting and increase student engagement. Our new multipurpose outdoor play and learning spaces help us educate the whole child.”
The Bailey Baxter Green Schoolyard project was designed and managed by Providence Parks Department landscape architect Megan Gardner in partnership with the Providence Healthy Communities Office, RIHousing and Bailey Elementary School. In addition to the support of the Providence City Council, additional project partners include The Nature Conservancy, the Providence Department of Planning and Development, the Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, Providence Neighborhood Planting Programs, and neighbors.
“Research shows that regular access to nature improves healthy development, increases academic achievement and promotes social and emotional learning for children,” said Priya Cook, Director of Green Schoolyards for the Children & Nature Network and the Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative. “Led by a strong city and school-district vision and shared commitment that all children deserve safe access to the outdoors, Providence is using its green schoolyards to increase educational and health equity, and enhance the quality of life for its children.”
At a project cost of $998,000, the Bailey Baxter Green Schoolyard is the largest investment in play space in the City of Providence to date. Funding included $613,000 from RIHousing’s Property Acquisition and Revitalization Program.
“Rhode Island families need safe, affordable homes,” said Executive Director of RIHousing Carol Ventura. “And they need green space and playgrounds for children to grow and thrive. Parks and playgrounds have so many physical and social benefits. From improving formerly vacant and blighted lots, to providing opportunities for families to connect with nature, exercise and play. The Bailey Baxter Green Schoolyard project has greatly improved the neighborhood and supports existing housing and infrastructure investments in the surrounding area.”
In addition to the opening of the Bailey Baxter Green Schoolyard, the City and its partners today announced the start of the next Green Schoolyards project adjacent to Mary Fogarty Elementary School. The Harriet and Sayles Park & Mary E. Fogarty Green Schoolyards Complex project will begin construction later this month and is expected to be complete in summer 2023.
With support from the Children & Nature Network and the National League of Cities through their Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative, the City has developed the Providence Green Schoolyard Guide to help teachers and school communities envision how this model can help transform their school’s outdoor space. Those interested in learning more about Green Schoolyards in Providence can find the guide at providenceri.gov/greenschoolyards.