© 2024 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

CalFire grants aim to make schools cooler and greener

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Department logo. seal (Photo courtesy San Jose Fire)
CAL FIRE/Photo courtesy CAL FIRE
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Department logo. seal (Photo courtesy San Jose Fire)

As climate change makes extreme heat events more common, Bay Area school districts and nonprofits are receiving grants from CalFire to make school playgrounds cooler and greener.

CalFire’s new Green Schoolyards grant program provides funding for schools to convert pavement into green spaces, plant trees, and create drought-tolerant natural areas on school campuses. Replacing asphalt and concrete with trees and greenery can cool an area by several degrees.

When extreme heat hits, asphalt particles can be released into the air and playgrounds overheat, posing a risk of thermal burns.

Dr. Lisa Patel, executive director for the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, says she has treated a lot of children experiencing heat-related health issues. She says children are often unable to express when they are overheating or dehydrating – making them particularly vulnerable. Hotter temperatures also increase the potency of air pollution.

The first round of funding, which includes $47 million in grants, will provide an implementation grant to a project in the San Francisco Unified School District and includes planning grants for schools in Contra Costa, Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Clara, and Alameda counties.

Many of the grantees that receive planning grants this year hope to develop plans and apply for implementation grants in the coming years.

Applications for additional CalFire funding for heat mitigation projects will open in the fall.

Laura Isaza is an audio journalist primarily covering climate and the environment. Born and raised in the Seattle area, she came to the Bay to attend UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. On her off time, you'll most likely find her skiing up and down mountains or attempting to climb rocks.