Dobbs Elementary To Create Schoolyard Park for Entire Community

Fourth and Fifth Grade Students Will Lead the Charge

Fourth and fifth grade students at Dobbs Elementary School have a very important task ahead. They’re designing a brand-new schoolyard park.

On Sept. 12, students sat crisscross in the media center, as they were introduced one-by-one to the four people who will help turn their park dreams into reality.

But first, Principal Tiffany Ragin asked: “Do you know why you’re here today?”

Hands shot up in the air with excitement.

“We’re giving them ideas of how to fix our playground,” one little girl said.

“They’re here to give us ideas on careers,” said a little boy.

“So we can create a new playground,” another girl chimed in.

They were all right.

“We were selected because there are not enough parks in our neighborhood, so we decided to share our playground with our community,” Ragin explained. “And you will help to design it.”

Cheers erupted.

Roughly 30 percent of Atlanta residents live in park desserts, or not within a 10-minute walk to a park, according to The Trust for Public Land. So, the city of Atlanta, Park Pride, Urban Land Institute, The Trust for Public Land, and Atlanta Public Schools partnered to make a change.

Over the next three years, 10 APS schools will help create community schoolyards, making those schools open to the public during non-school hours. Dobbs Elementary is the first school on the list.

In partnership with The Trust for Public Land and Park Pride, the staff and volunteers of Urban Land Institute is in the process of reviewing and documenting the conditions of all pedestrian routes within a 10-minute walk of each school site.

At the Sept. 12 kick-off orientation, Dobbs Elementary students met Ruth Pimentel, a Park Pride fellow and Georgia Tech graduate student who will help with community engagement; Teri Nye, a Park Pride park designer, who will help students channel their design ideas on paper; Andrew White, Park Pride director of park visions, who will help students and community create conceptual drawings; and Jay Wozniak, The Trust for Public Land urban parks director, who will lead the fundraising and construction phase.

When discussing next steps for the schoolyard project, Mr. Jay (as the students affectionately called Wozniak) projected this timeline on an overhead, and students were not pleased:  

  • Next two weeks – Students will study the site and collect information
  • Oct. 17 – Design session
  • Winter 2020 – Finalize design
  • Spring 2020 – Purchase materials and hire contractors
  • Summer 2020 – Construct schoolyard design
  • Fall 2020 – Ribbon cutting

“Why will it take you one year to create the park?” asked one girl, as her classmates nodded in agreement.

“Well, we have four months of design, and then we have to start a process called permitting,” Mr. Jay attempted to explain. “We have to present the design to the city of Atlanta for approval.”

Dobbs Elementary students are quite eager to get the ball rolling on their new schoolyard park, and are bursting with ideas. After the presentation, a fourth-grade boy tapped Mr. Jay on his shoulder, flashed a huge smile and said, “I would like to have a basketball court.”

This young scholar is on to something. According to The Trust for Public Land, just 2.7 per 10,000 people in the city of Atlanta have access to basketball hoops, placing Atlanta in the 40th percentile compared to the 100 largest U.S. cities.

Perhaps he’ll get his wish.

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