This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
After a long community design process and a lot of help from outside funders, the wait is finally over: the 800 students at Ben Franklin Elementary don’t have to play on concrete anymore.
The school partnered with the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, which works across the country to increase access to green space in cities. In recent years, the trust has started viewing schools as an opportunity to do that.
“We have these huge asphalt spaces that are doing very little good for a community,” said Owen Franklin, who runs the Trust’s regional office in Philadelphia. “With some investment can yield a whole new host of impacts that are serving not only the students from an educational standpoint, but the community as a gathering space.”
The trust saw a scarcity of greenspace in the Lawncrest neighborhood, and chose Ben Franklin as a priority.
Ben Franklin joins the ranks of what is unfortunately still a minority of Philadelphia public schools with a playground. A WHYY analysis found that two-thirds of Philadelphia public schools don’t have any kind of playground. The areas with the fewest tend to be in areas predominantly home to communities of color. Until now, the 19120 zip code which includes eight public schools in Olney and Lawncrest, had no public school playgrounds.