Walk by Grout Elementary in Southeast Portland on a clear day, and you will likely see people of all ages enjoying the fresh air on the school’s neatly manicured field. However, the field was not always perfect for sports and activities. Before being selected by the community to receive $5,000 last year as a 2020 OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education Community Builder Award winner, students at Grout were regularly suffering from twisted ankles, cuts, scrapes and bruises due to the uneven, bare and compacted surface. The flat green surface found at Grout Elementary today is the result of incredible community support.
After 35 injuries were reported in 2019, the Grout Parent Teacher Association (PTA) jumped into action, forming the Grout Grounds Committee to improve the field and reduce injuries. The committee comprised of school and community representatives worked together to leverage community resources and relationships to make the project happen.
With field maintenance averaging $5,000 per year, the committee got to work on its application for OnPoint’s Community Builder Award, which would cover the annual cost of fertilizing, seeding, and mowing the field.
Taking action amidst the pandemic
Just as the committee finalized its project plan and submitted its grant application, COVID-19 hit and like the rest of the world, the Grout Grounds Improvement Project was put on hold.
“After the initial shock of the pandemic wore off, we realized we had an opportunity,” said Julie Bolstad, President of the Grout PTA and mother of three Grout Elementary students. “With schools closed and kids off the field, it was a perfect time to get the work done. The winners of OnPoint’s Community Builder Award were not going to be announced for months, but we knew we had the support of our community, so we got started.”
In just two months, the committee and a local turf provider worked together to fill holes, aerate and fertilize the field. As the improvements were taking shape, OnPoint notified Grout Elementary that the community had selected its project to receive OnPoint’s top Community Builder Award of $5,000.
“We had already started fixing the field, so winning OnPoint’s Community Builder Award was a huge relief,” said Bolstad. “People from across the community came together to make these much-needed improvements happen. Winning this incredible honor has ensured that all we accomplished as a community over the last year will be maintained.”
A field of opportunities for the entire community
More than half of Grout students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches, and many use the field for after-school programs and activities. When in-person learning returns, every student will have access to the safer facilities they deserve. Additionally, the community’s increased usage throughout the pandemic has helped reduce vandalism on school property and at Kenilworth Park located across the street.
“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the field has become a community asset that our entire neighborhood can be proud of. When students return to school, they will be welcomed with a new, improved and safer outdoor space,” said Bolstad.
The education system is transforming before our eyes through the pandemic. Schools are leading the way in creating new and innovative ways of staying engaged and connected through remote learning. To learn more about the OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education and to nominate a special project or teacher making a significant impact on students, parents and the community, visit www.onpointprize.com.