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Larry Watts, president of People for Parks, is trying to rally the community to save the public hours committed for Vine Street Elementary School.
“It’s about getting people organized and letting people know this exists,” he said. “A few dollars can make a huge difference.”
People for Parks has been the main funding arm of public hours for the park, but members of the organization said that money is running out.
In 2012, the city, Los Angeles Unified School District and People for Parks celebrated the opening of what they dubbed a community-school park at the 955 Vine St. campus, which took more than a half-decade of planning, replacing the asphalt landscape of the elementary school park with green landscaping. In addition to new equipment and activities, when the school was closed, there would be people hired to oversee public after-school play until dusk, and on weekends.
The revitalized park includes a volleyball net, basketball court, rubberized track, benches, playground area and mini soccer field.
People for Parks was spearheading the fundraising efforts that maintained public activities and supervision during non-school hours. Its first two community-school parks are located at Vine Street Elementary and Trinity Elementary in South Los Angeles.
Officially, community-school parks are meant to be a safe space within a neighborhood where residents can come together to be active as a community, LAUSD officials said. The key is that an outside agency, such as a nonprofit, must provide supervision, liability insurance and other resources during non-school hours.
Since the parks opened, Parks for People have paid Beyond the Bell to oversee Vine Street Elementary Park for public hours of operation.
“We’re a nonprofit and we’ve been raising money to keep these schools open, but in the last six months we’ve hit a dry spell,” said Andres Ramos, People for Parks board member. “We’re trying to figure it out and see what kind of support we can get.”
At this time, Vine Street Elementary has been reduced to limited weekend hours for the public portion, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those hours are set to resume in January.
Beyond the Bell is one of LAUSD’s designated after-school programs and is able to accept responsibly and liability for park supervision. The public aspect also includes adult-led activities and programs.
People for Parks officials estimated that keeping the public hours open at a minimum for next year will cost $500 each month.
To maintain after-school programming and full weekend activities that people have grown accustomed to at the site, it would cost closer to $5,000 a month, representatives said.
Watts and others have started to drum up support. On Monday, he gave a report to the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council and said he plans to gain the attention of leaders at city council, as well.
Having Vine Street Elementary open to the public is more important to that area than elsewhere, Watts said.
“That is the only green space in the entire area, and it’s such an under-parked part of the city,” added Anna Gruben, People for Parks program director.
People for Parks officials said it might require an unlikely philanthropist to step in from outside the immediate area.
“We realize around Vine, many parents don’t have the economic resources versus other areas,” Watts said, adding that they need to cast a wide net to find some generous donors.
There is enough money to let the park run normally through January, but then tough decisions will have to made, should no major donors come forward in that time, Ramos said.
“There are not many grants that support this because it is so new and innovative,” he added.
“We’re just looking for any help we can get,” Gruben said. “It’s been such a gem that the parents really cherish.”
To get involved with the fundraising effort, visit peopleforparks.org.
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