Students can decompress in a garden at a new East Oakland schoolyard

Until Thursday, Markham Elementary was the only elementary school in Oakland without a playground.

The situation for those students changed thanks to the support of the Warriors Community Foundation, in partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric, Trust for Public Land, Oakland Unified School District, Project Backboard, Green Schoolyards America, and Growing Together.

Over five years, the groups were part of a project to remove 21,000 square feet of asphalt to install a playground and greener workspace for the students at the school.

Dubbed the Living Schoolyard, 84 trees were added to provide shade, an outdoor classroom space, a turf play field that will also capture stormwater runoff, and a garden.

"They grow tomatoes, grown watermelons, and all kind of stuff in there. I like the plant on the outside just to kind of health with the environment," said Artesha Rose, whose daughter is in fourth grade at Markham Elementary.

The garden will even serve as a place for students to decompress, especially important as they too were impacted by the pandemic.

"Sometimes of our kids get deregulated, and then they need a space to be to calm down and reset and the garden, everyone, all the kids say that’s their favorite place to go do that," said Byron Delcomb, principal of Markham Elementary.

In the middle of the garden, freshly-planted trees, and playground, there is a new basketball court with a mural by Oakland-based artist Favianna Rodriguez at its center.

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Warriors Forward Juan Toscano-Anderson hosted a ceremonial tip-off at center court.

"It means a lot. It’s big. It’s another safe space for kids, so I think that can go a long way," said Toscano-Anderson.

"OUSD already has two other completed Living Schoolyard projects at Melrose Leadership Academy and the co-located International Community School (ICS) and Think College Now (TCN), which are very popular with students, staff, and families," read a state from Oakland Unified School District.