Selection Criteria

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Space to Grow uses very focused selection criteria to identify schools and communities that most urgently need outdoor spaces for physical activity and are most directly located in areas with severe neighborhood flooding caused by combined sewer overflows. Space to Grow prioritizes vulnerable and underserved schools and communities.

Using a series of steps based on these criteria, Space to Grow partners identify eligible schools and invite school leaders to apply for a schoolyard transformation.


Step One

Space to Grow schools must be located in a part of the city that is at high risk for flooding. If the area surrounding the school is at risk for flooding every five years or less, the school may be eligible if it also meets the following criteria:

  • Chicago Public Schools has determined that the school has a high-priority need for a playground; this means the school has no usable playground or its playground is nearing the end of its usable age.
  • The school has at least 30,000 square feet of space available to build a schoolyard.
  • The school has no other major construction projects planned.

Schools that do not meet these criteria are not eligible for Space to Grow renovations.


Step Two

Schools meeting the minimum criteria in Step One may be invited to apply for a schoolyard transformation. Principals of invited schools will receive an invitation via email. Schools that apply will be selected based on the following criteria:

Flooding risk and stormwater capture
This includes physical characteristics of the school that make it more likely for the schoolyard to have a significant impact on potential flooding.

Vulnerable communities
Space to Grow prioritizes communities with the greatest need for opportunities for physical activity and green space. Low-income communities with high rates of obesity are prioritized.

School readiness and likelihood for success
Space to Grow requires a strong commitment from the school and community. Partners look at whether schools have initiated efforts to improve health and wellness and have strong partnerships with community institutions and other organizations.

Geographic equity
Space to Grow is designed to make an impact across the city. As a result, the final selection of schoolyards takes into account the location of existing Space to Grow schoolyards and strives for geographic balance.