Up to $117 Million Available for Green Schoolyards Projects

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) has released a Draft 2022/2023 Green Schoolyard Grants Guidelines for public comment with the application period likely opening in January 2023. Applications are anticipated to be due February 17, 2023. The total funding availability for this program is $117 million. 

What is the purpose of this program? The Green Schoolyards grants are designed to assist with planning and/or implementing multi-benefit projects with a focus on extreme heat, environmental, economic, and social benefits to urban public school campuses and eligible childcare facilities with an emphasis on in-need education facilities. Projects should include the planting of trees and converting pavement to green spaces on school campuses with a focus on child-accessible areas of campus

Who is eligible to apply for Green Schoolyard Grants?

Eligible applicants include cities, counties, qualifying districts, or nonprofit organizations qualified under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Districts include, but are not limited to, school or park districts.

Joint use agreements between school districts and local park agencies are eligible to further the Outdoors for All initiative.

What types of grants are available under this program? Applicants will be able to apply for Implementation and Planning Grants.

While Implementation Grants are designated for shovel-ready projects, the goal of Planning Grants is to complete the plan for implementation of a Green Schoolyards project including preliminary site designs, environmental assessments (e.g., HazMat identification and plan for remediation), CEQA, stakeholder engagement, any permitting, and other steps required for the implementation of the project. The primary outcome of Planning Grants is to develop a Green Schoolyards project that can be submitted for an Implementation Grant in the following funding cycle.  

What are the application requirements? Some of the program requirements for Implementation and Planning Grants that determine the project’s eligibility are listed below. An exhaustive list is provided in the Grant Guidelines.

  • School Districts and Campuses: Each school campus participating in the project (which must be listed by name in the grant application) will form a group of staff, including the respective school principal, grounds management, and teachers, to lead/guide the implementation of the project, help optimize the benefits to students and staff, and ensure long-term success of the project. The project must have a commitment for active participation from school staff and the school district and must show that the (school) community where the project will occur was, and will continue to be, authentically engaged about the project; evidence of this commitment must be provided through a certified letter or MOU. Furthermore, the school district and campus must have or develop policies, best practices, and staff for tree/landscape maintenance, budget, and goals expressed and adopted in long-term plans.
  • Project Location: The project must be located in or immediately adjacent to an “urban area” or “urban cluster” as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. (U.S. Census Bureau's Urban and Rural). The property does not have to be owned by the school/child care facility, however, an MOU or certified letter from the respective owner is required to ensure long-term use and maintenance of the project as well as access to CAL FIRE for inspections.
  • Tree Planting Requirements: Grant requests must include the creation, development, and implementation of projects that improve, expand, and maintain healthy urban trees on California school campuses. Tree planting within the project shall adhere to Appendix G in the Grant Guidelines at a minimum. Failure to follow the Standards in Appendix G will lead CAL FIRE to require replacement of the trees at the grantee’s cost or reimburse CAL FIRE the funds used to plant the trees.
  • GHG Reductions: The project will report on GHG reductions achieved by the CALFIRE guidelines explained in the Grant Guidelines.
  • Environmental Compliance: The applicant must comply in all respects with all applicable local and county ordinances, and all applicable state and federal laws and regulations, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
  • Outreach and Education: Projects shall include an education and outreach component, comprising no more than 20 percent of grant funds. This component, as part of the overall project, may be shown as project match dollars by the applicant if so desired.

What are eligible practices for the Green Schoolyards Program?  Eligible practices include:

  • Designing/implementing of Green Schoolyards projects with multiple benefits that give special attention to reducing extreme heat, provision of shade to students during recess and outdoor learning, air quality improvement, storm water management, water quality, or improvement of public health and/or educational outcomes.
  • Implementation projects shall include the planting of trees and should include converting pavement to green spaces on school campuses with a priority on the child-accessible areas of campus.
  • Planning project should incorporate tree plantings and the conversion of pavement to green spaces on school campuses with a priority on the child-accessible areas of campus in the campus design.
  • Projects may include strategies such as removal of impervious surfaces, installment of natural features for learning and recess such as pocket forests, rain gardens, botanical gardens, natural playgrounds, food producing gardens and landscape, outdoor classrooms as well as maintenance of planted vegetation. Projects shall be centered around improving the environmental conditions and experiences for school children with highest levels of co-benefits.
  • Projects may include staff recruitment and/or training for maintenance, parent/community engagement and partnerships, and improvements to policy, procedures, best practices, plans, monitoring systems, and analysis or adjustments to funding that will achieve long-term goals including expansion of tree canopy cover on campus.
  • Education including curriculum development to enhance hands-on learning and environmental literacy using the created green spaces are eligible.

What are the funding levels for this program?

Implementation Grants: Applicants can request from $1 million to $30 million per application including a $2 million maximum per school campus included in the project. For example, a $30 million project must include 15 or more campuses.

Planning Grants:  Applicants can receive from $75,000 to $1,500,000 per application including a $100,000 maximum per school campus included in the project.

Project funds for both grant types are paid on a reimbursement basis and advance payment options are available to nonprofits serving disadvantaged communities.

Is there a cost-sharing/match requirement? All grant types require a cost share (matching) rate of 75/25. The proportion of the project’s cost funded by CAL FIRE shall not be greater than 75 percent. Matching requirements (25 percent) for state funds may be met with in-kind activities or materials related to the project, as well as with any state funding source related to the project that is not the same as the state source of funding awarded by CAL FIRE.

Projects that meet the criteria for being in or benefiting a disadvantaged community/low-income community or in-need educational facility will be eligible to have their cost share requirement reduced or completely waived by CAL FIRE. This request must be made during the application process by checking the appropriate box on the form and providing the rationale within the narrative.

When is the application deadline? Applications will be likely due February 17, 2023 by 3pm PT.

What is the award timeline? According to CALFIRE, grant agreements may not be in place until the spring or early summer of 2023.

For Implementation Grants, all project work must be completed by March 30, 2026. Planning Grants must be completed within 9-12 months of the executed grant agreement, no later than March 30, 2024.

The full Draft Grant Guidelines are here. 

For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at grants@morrisonco.net or call us at 530-893-4764.


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