MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation is transforming schoolyards across the city. The spaces feature green infrastructure, native plants and outdoor learning opportunities.
The multi-million dollar project is funded by private and public philanthropy as well as various government grants. In the last few years, 17 MPS schools have benefited from the program. Five of those schools got the makeover this past summer, including North Division High School, Academy of Accelerated Learning, Bay View Montessori, La Escuela Fratney, and Allen-Field Elementary.
North Division Senior Dontae Luttrell gave a tour of the changes at his school, which include an amphitheater, an outdoor learning space with picnic tables, a mural, improvements to the track and field space, a storm water management system, and sustainable landscaping throughout the school grounds.
"At this school, we don't get a lot of recognition, we get a lot of bad talked on our name. When it looks like this, it looks real good. So people might consider coming to the school," Luttrell said.
Luttrell helped make the changes a reality as an intern with Reflow, a green-infrastructure company. He said over the summer, he attended construction meetings every week.
"They were like, 'if you want to help us put the cistern in you can,' so I volunteered. It was fun!" he said.
He said the new water management system has been especially helpful over at the football field, where he said enough rain would flood parts of the field.
MPS Foundation Executive Director Wendell Willis said, "This space, like many of our other schoolyards, were really asphalt jungles. And what, not only us, but our partners came in and remediated everything below ground, making sure that it's environmentally sustainable, making sure it can flourish for years to come."
The transformation also gives current students a sense of pride in their school.
"When I wake up and come to school, I always look at the mural. There's so many career opportunities that our school gives us and nobody sees it. So for us to put it on the front of the building, that's a good look on our school," Luttrell said.