About School Parks
A School Park, often known as a Joint-Use Site, is an outdoor space at a school that is available to the public during non-school hours through an interlocal agreement between City of Austin (COA) and Austin Independent School District (AISD). These outdoor spaces are special purpose parks with recreational amenities responding first to the student population, then to the neighborhood. They are co-owned and co-managed between both AISD and COA. Because of the co-ownership of the park grounds and associated amenities, maintenance services and improvements are provided by AISD and COA.
School Parks are free and open to the public outside of the school day during the AISD school district calendar (7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday). On weekends, holidays, and summer months School Parks are open to the public from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For information regarding AISD Bond Modernization and how it will impact school parks, please visit the District’s FAQ page.
School Parks Overview
The first Interlocal Agreement (known then as the Joint Use Agreement) dates back to the 1960s after the separation of AISD from the City of Austin. The first written policies that cover the joint use of school and parkland were adopted by the Austin City Council on December 1, 1960, and the AISD Board of Trustees on January 9, 1961. An amendment was drafted in the early 1980s between COA and AISD due to increasing servicing needs and rapid city growth. This amendment was finally signed on July 15, 1981, and approved by the Board of Trustees on August 10, 1981. To advance this 30 year-old agreement, it was updated from 2018 to 2022. The current version addresses inefficiencies in the operations and maintenance of the sites, defines clear roles and responsibilities, and creates a streamlined and transparent process for community-activated improvements moving forward.
- CAPP and SIP
- School Parks are required to submit a Community Activated Park Project (CAPP) and a Schoolyard Improvement Project (SIP)
- Community Activated Park Project (CAPP): CAPP provides an opportunity for neighbors, non-profits, community groups and partners to raise funds and in-kind contributions to implement park improvement projects that align to PARD goals and meet community priorities. The goal of the CAPP Program is to create community ownership and stewardship on parkland.
- Schoolyard Improvement Project (SIP): The purpose of this form is to approve the location of the project, and to ensure the proposer receives relevant information regarding future site developments, underground utility lines, and potential resources to help plan and implement the project. The form should be submitted by the School Principal or someone they designate to submit on their behalf.
- During park hours volunteer opportunities are encouraged through PARD’s partners to build community around the School Park. Volunteer organizations must go through one of PARD’s partners to ensure the correct liability insurance to volunteer on parkland is obtained. See the FAQ for more information.
- The Adopt-A-Park Program is a collaborative partnership between the Austin Parks & Recreation Department (PARD) and Austin Parks Foundation (APF), which helps community members connect and collaborate through stewardship. The goal of this program is to build community pride and ownership around every neighborhood park in Austin.
- CAPP and SIP
- Get Involved!
The Loose Parts Lending Kits are a collection of items that can be used to build, create, and foster nature connections in an unstructured environment. Each kit contains an assortment of natural materials, animal figurines, string, fabric and so much more. Loose parts nature play promotes creativity and imagination, cooperation and communication, and fosters connection to nature and stewardship values. These kits are free and open to the public. To borrow the kits click here.
Green School Park Committee
The goal of the Green School Park Program is to create a network of school parks that provide schools and the surrounding community the opportunity to learn from, steward, and play in nature. Green School Parks (GSPs) are School Parks that are inclusive of traditional playground features and, more notably, have present and abundant natural elements woven throughout the greenspace. To join the Green School Park Committee efforts, please contact Yasmine Anderson (email@example.com).
Benefits of School Parks
- Access to greenspace and recreational opportunities in otherwise park-deficient areas, which has been connected to better physical and mental health
- Connection to Park/City of Austin-related grant opportunities to improve the existing greenspace, such as adding a nature trail through wildflower meadow
- Shared cost and maintenance responsibilities, including playground maintenance and waste disposal
- Children that spend time in nature are healthier, happier, and perform better in school
- Growing ownership of the space through community stewardship opportunities
Example of School Park Usage
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Who do I contact if the gate is locked?
If the gate is locked on site during park hours, please contact Melody Alcazar (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Who do I contact if there’s a broken feature?
- How do I submit an improvement project?
- Are dogs allowed at School Park Sites?
Yes, dogs are allowed at School Parks. It is the owner’s responsibility to keep the dog on a leash at all times and place all animal waste into the mutt mitt stations found on site. To locate a mutt mitt station, visit the PARD Interactive map. To read more about the importance of correctly disposing of animal waste, click here.
- Who maintains the site?
School Parks are co-owned between COA and AISD. To see who maintains the specific feature on site, please visit the PARD Interactive map.
- When are School Parks open to the public?
Hours of operation
- Closed: School Parks are closed to the public 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday during the AISD school calendar
- Open: School Parks are open to the public 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. outside of school hours and during weekends and holidays
- When can I volunteer at a School Park Site?
- During school hours: If the volunteer event falls during school hours, the principal must be contacted and approve the volunteer event.
- Outside of school hours: If you plan on having an on campus volunteer day out of school hours PARD requires registration of the volunteer event with Austin Parks Foundation (APF) to ensure safety and liability requirements are followed. Feel free to contact Austin Parks Foundation at email@example.com with any questions.