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LA Unified SEEDS program slow in sprouting but growth expected

Yana Gracile | July 2, 2014

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SEEDS program LAUSDNearly two months after its launching, the LA Unified Sustainable Environment Enhancement Developments for Schools (SEEDS) initiative is off to a slow start.

In May, nearly 70 school representatives, community partners and LAUSD employees attended the SEEDS program kick-off event, but only eight applications have come in so far.

But no worries, said LAUSD’s chief facilities executive Mark Hovatter.

“I expect a lot of interest,” he told LA School Report. “There are a lot of people who are very excited about the program and who’ve been waiting for it for a while.”

The SEEDS program, which was approved by the school board in 2013 as a $1 million project for the first year, seeks to create and expand green projects throughout the district that directly support the school curriculum, such as science, health and nutrition.

“SEEDS will partner with schools and non-profits to create outdoor environments that will positively impact thousands of our students for years to come,” Superintendent John Deasy said at the time.

The goal of the bond-funded program is to support projects that address sustainability, community building and campus enhancement, promoting student and community health. The majority of the projects will consist of gardens located on school sites.

Hovatter said that over the years, there has been a lot of interest and enthusiasm in building gardens on school campuses, but many people don’t understand the challenges involved in putting a garden on a school site.

“Our idea was to put some facility money towards the project as an augmentation grant that allows people to still bring in what they want to do, and we make a garden-ready plot,” he saids. “So we take care of the soil testing, we bring in the good soil, we make sure that there’s proper irrigation system.”

He says there will be a much greater chance that these efforts will produce a long-term sustainable garden.

Hovatter also said there are other challenges. For example, he said, the gardens’ locations can’t conflict with other school campus requirements such as making sure there’s enough play stations. To save on space, a wall garden or raised planters may offer an alternative solution.

Once the project is completed, it will be up to the school and its partner organizations to install and maintain the plants and landscaping features of the project during the school year and summer months.

To reduce the additional workload on LAUSD facilities employees, Hovatter said the goal is to create low-maintenance gardens and develop long-term maintenance plans with local neighborhood groups and volunteers to help maintain the gardens.

Each school site is eligible to receive a maximum of $25,000 in SEEDS funds, which would cover the costs of labor, materials and project management.

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