Vista del Valle Dual Language Academy in San Fernando will be one of 17 LA County schools to undergo “greening” to reduce asphalt and increase heat-reducing green spaces. Photo shows concrete being dug up at Vena Elementary School in 2018. CREDIT: Adam Corey Thomas, courtesy of TreePeople

A local elementary school will be among 17 campuses in historically underserved school districts across Los Angeles County that will have cooler, greener and more eco-friendly playgrounds thanks to TreePeople, which will implement the greening projects with $15.6 million in grants from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). 

TreePeople will use the grant award to transform a combined total of more than 400,000 square feet of asphalt on selected school playgrounds into sustainable landscapes with heat-reducing surfaces that will offer natural grass playing fields and areas that can serve as outdoor learning spaces. Nearly 1,000 trees and more than 10,000 native plants will be planted to provide shade and help reduce “heat islands.”

People help plant trees and plants for “greening” project on the campus of Patrick Henry Middle School in 2022.
CREDIT: Adam Corey Thomas, courtesy of TreePeople

At Vista del Valle Dual Language Academy – a bilingual LAUSD elementary school in San Fernando – TreePeople will be removing a portion of the asphalt, planting a minimum of 30 trees and 300plants, and adding systems to capture stormwater. According to Christos Chrysiliou, director of Architectural and Engineering Services for the Facilities Services Division of LAUSD, the conceptual design planning for the $1 million project at Vista del Valle will begin in October, and the plans are expected to undergo detailed review before being finalized and breaking ground on the project. The timeline for completion will be in the first quarter of 2026.

Kathy Bates, principal of Vista Del Valle, told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol that they are excited to partner with TreePeople on this project, noting that not only will it “make our campus more beautiful,” she hopes the school can also serve as a model of eco-friendly possibilities.

“I see it also as a positive example of how a community could adopt greener spaces or more environmentally-friendly sustaining practices,” explained Bates. But, she emphasized, the biggest beneficiaries will be the students themselves, because it will “enhance [the] overall learning for our students to be in a more natural play environment when they’re outside.” 

Vista del Valle Dual Language Academy in San Fernando will be one of 17 LA County schools to undergo “greening” to reduce asphalt and increase green spaces. Photo shows people planting a tree at Patrick Henry Middle School in 2022. CREDIT: Adam Corey Thomas, courtesy of TreePeople

“There are lots of benefits for our students,” said Bates, adding that having more shaded outdoor areas will provide more comfortable outside playtime and new outdoor learning opportunities as well.

“Having a greener outdoor space could open up the potential to … take the classroom outside to do some of our studies,” she said. In addition, teaching the students about the greening project itself can offer “learning opportunities around energy conservation, sustainability, reducing greenhouse emissions, cleaner air, reducing water waste,” and many others, according to Bates.

“All kinds of different environmental educational opportunities would be able to come out of this,” she said.

In 2017, TreePeople completed a project on the campus of San Fernando Elementary School, where they removed 1,284 square feet of asphalt and planted 57 new trees with the help of 200 parent and community volunteers.

The 17 schools targeted for the current phase of greening projects are located in the Los Angeles, Lynwood and Hacienda La Puente school districts. The grants will also fund future TreePeople greening projects on six public school campuses in the Burbank Unified School District.

Chrysiliou told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol that TreePeople and the generous grant funding from CAL FIRE are helping LAUSD “achieve our goals and objectives as a school district to help improve the environmental conditions and experiences for our school.”

Emily Tyrer, director of Green Infrastructure at TreePeople, said the greening projects are part of the organization’s larger mission to create “nature-based solutions” to help reduce the negative impacts of extreme heat, especially in underserved communities in Southern California, which are expected to have “more frequent high-heat days in the years ahead due to climate change.” 

“I am grateful for CAL FIRE’s historic investment and honored to help school communities create safer, healthier schools,” she said.

In addition to Vista del Valle, the other schools slated for this stage of greening projects include: Abbott Elementary, 74th Street Elementary, 116th Street Elementary, Cedarlane Academy, Charles Barrett Elementary School, Eastman Avenue Elementary, Florence Avenue Elementary, Grape Street Elementary, Independence Elementary, Lillian Street Elementary, Lindbergh Elementary, Miles Ave Elementary, Parmelee Elementary, Sparks Middle School, State Street Elementary and Vista High School.

Established in 1973, TreePeople pursues a wide range of nature-based solutions to help create greener, healthier, and more water-secure communities throughout Southern California for present and future generations. For more information about TreePeople, go to: