In summer of 2003, the local community and teaching staff at 24th Street Elementary School learned that the school was due to have its playground repaved using money from Proposition BB. Under this plan, the old asphalt was to be removed and new asphalt laid in the same footprint. The 24th Street School staff, led by 2nd grade teacher Linda Slater and principal Yongpyo Grace Yoon, approached neighbors and local businesses to see if they couldn't come up with more optimistic model for the future than asphalt and chain link on the verge of a freeway.
They found an eager community. They partnered with the 24th Street Block Club, district council members Martin Ludlow then Herb Wesson, the Neighborhood Council, the Los Angeles Police Department, the LAUSD police, the Hancock Park Garden Club, Pasadena Garden Club and Diggers garden club, the West Adams Heritage Assn. and LaBrea Bakery, Inc. In March 2005, 24th Street Block Club sought out Nancy Goslee Power to draw a prototype plan. She consulted the students, teachers, and community while working in concert with LAUSD facilities and the repaving program to produce a plan that met their collective needs.
What started as a repaving program was now a partnership between the community and the teachers to save a failing school. The park-starved community wanted a meeting space, sports facility, potentially a venue for a farmers' market. Teaching staff wanted outdoor classrooms to start innovative programs designed to tackle a hot list of urban challenges:
- closing the achievement gap
- promoting English language development
- improving time-keeping and raising average daily attendance
- involving parents and the community
- fighting obesity and promoting physical fitness
- buffering freeway pollution and fighting asthma
- creating council circles for teaching and conflict resolution
The project couldn't accomplish everything at once, but it could lay the groundwork for the future. The time to do it was when the main yard was being bulldozed under the BB repaving program. Working with Principal Yoon, the 24th Street Complex Manager and LAUSD Facilities staff, Power created a plan that created spaces for: teaching gardens, game courts, track and field, reading circles, community picnic spaces, and a teaching kitchen.