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Environmental Justice in Action: Greening Concord Elementary School

This article is part of the series: “Seattle Environmental Justice in Action” — highlighting projects and organizations that are advancing environmental justice in our city. In 2017, the City of Seattle and the King Conservation District (KCD) to support projects that advance environmental justice along with improving natural resources in Seattle. Project proposals were required to address the goals of the Seattle Equity & Environment Agenda as well as natural resource priorities.

A mural at Concord International Elementary School celebrates the multicultural and diverse roots of its students

Concord International Elementary School is located in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. Three hundred and sixty-five K-5 students attend the school: 60% of the students are Spanish speakers and 75% are part of the free and reduced lunch program. The 98108 zip code has disproportionally poor air quality and higher rates of childhood asthma than other parts of Seattle.

“This neighborhood has lacked investment for many years. It’s really meaningful to have more beautiful space. Having beautiful surroundings is helpful to instill pride in our kids and show them that they are worth investing in because they are,” said Robin Schwartz, President of Concord PTA.

To ensure community ownership of the of the project, Angélica Mendoza, parent of a child at Concord serving in the role of Project Coordinator and Community Outreach lead, conducted 9 months of engagement and surveying in both Spanish and English on social media and at community and school events, PTA meetings and neighborhood community centers.

Ground has just broken on the site for Concord’s new pollinator garden, funded by a 2017 KCD grant

The final designs include a pollinator garden, funded by King Conservation District, and an updated front entryway, funded by the Duwamish Opportunity Fund and other foundations. The pollinator pathway is an S-shaped garden with native plants that will attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Beyond the obvious benefits of beautification and cleaning the air, children, many of whom live in apartments without garden spaces, will be able to learn about the flora and fauna through science classes and other outdoor learning opportunities.

The project is the culmination of significant community outreach efforts and years of community-led work. The original idea for greening Concord came from the South Park Green Space Vision process in 2014 where the local community identified their ideal updates to public spaces.