Keep artificial turf out of elementary school courtyards.

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LGUSD is developing plans to build "Outdoor Classrooms" in elementary school courtyards using artificial turf as one of the primary surfaces.  

By installing artificial turf, LGUSD risks adding more heavy metals and chemicals, particularly PFAS which is found to be contaminating drinking water, to the environment.  PFAS can poison humans over time, even in very low doses, because it bioaccumulates.  

LGUSD, let's follow the precautionary principle and landscape without artificial turf.  The precautionary principle is a cost-effective way to minimize pollution and environmental damage.  

Taking artificial turf off the menu of landscaping materials would demonstrate value for public health.  It would also demonstrate environmental stewardship, which LGUSD calls out as one of the guiding principles for this project.


What can I do if I am not supportive of LGUSD's plans to install artificial turf on its campuses? 

  • Sign the petition

  • Write to LGUSD's Board of Trustees.

  • Provide public comments (once per agenda item and up to 3 minutes in length) at an in-person LGUSD school board meeting.  

    "Members of the public are always welcome at meetings of the Board of Trustees except for closed sessions." 

    Protocol: "The Board President will call for all speaker cards as the meeting commences, and at specific times throughout the meeting which are indicated on the agenda."

    Comments about artificial turf usage can be made in association with specific agenda items or during the Public Comment portion of the meeting, described as "the opportunity for members of the public to address the Governing Board on any item described in this notice or any other issue."  So if you're pressed for time, this may your best strategy.

  • Share this web-page with other community members.

Is artificial turf unsafe?

The jury is out.  What we can say is that it can not yet be concluded that it is safe.  

PFAS and artificial turf both remain active areas of research.  

There's clearly reason to question their safety and the potential serious consequences to our health.  

PFAS safety is being questioned by experts, by federal agencies (see this especially concerning recent announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), by state agencies, and by municipalities across the country.  

If these entities are not yet ready to conclude that artificial turf is safe, by what logic does it make sense for LGUSD to assert it is safe??

What's the problem with artificial turf?  

There are many.  One example: periods when the surface may become intensely hot.  Another example: bacterial contamination and antimicrobial pesticide treatments to protect against bacteria, viruses, mold, odors, etc.  Considering the full list of problems as a whole makes artificial turf a regrettable choice.  

Children's Environmental Health experts agree that artificial turf does not belong on school campuses until studies relating to children's exposure to the materials as they degrade can be performed.

The following safety problem alone should be more than sufficient justification for taking this product off LGUSD's landscape design menu at this time...

There's reason to be concerned heavy metals and chemicals, particularly PFAS which is found to be contaminating drinking water, may be released throughout the lifecycle of artificial turf (including chemical production, product manufacturing, distribution, use, UV degradation during use, disposal, and recycling).  

PFAS can poison humans over time, even in very low doses, because it bioaccumulates.  i.e  You don't excrete it.  Most likely, PFAS has already found its way into the bodies of you and your children.   

PFAS is not yet regulated as a class, but this is being recommended from within the scientific community.  

Assistant professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and faculty adviser to the Harvard Healthier Building Materials Academy, Joseph G. Allen, explains in the Washington Post

"They say nothing lasts forever. Nothing, that is, except a group of toxic chemicals that may be associated with testicular cancer, kidney cancerhigh cholesterol and suppression of vaccine effectiveness in children. They are now in nearly all of our bodies, are found in the air and water around the globe, and they never go away. [The class of chemicals known as PFAS] are 'Forever Chemicals'... 
Public-health scientists often describe the wicked game of replacing one harmful chemical with an equally harmful chemical as "regrettable substitution." But Forever Chemicals are worse. We don't swap one for one. They are more like weeds in a garden; as soon as we remove one from the market, 10 more appear. We have largely eliminated the use of PFOA and PFOS, but there are thousands of new variants of Forever Chemicals in use."

As part of the solution, Allen points to his school's "recently announced new Green Building Standards requiring that we no longer purchase furniture and other materials containing Forever Chemicals." 

With public health consequences for the wider community, PFAS is a serious issue that trumps the design preferences of LGUSD architects and site staff.  

Where can I view the district management's proposed budget and schematics for building "Outdoor Classrooms" in elementary school courtyards using artificial turf as one of the primary surfaces?  

Below is the budget request and portions of the "Outdoor Classroom" schematics, all clipped from the slides to be presented at the 12/14/21 general school board meeting.  Artificial turf is shown in dark green.  Show up in-person to this public meeting to hear the presentation.  It is unlikely to be recorded.  And the meeting minutes are unlikely to go into much detail.  

The "Outdoor Classroom" portion of LGUSD's landscape renovation projects has a price tag of just under $2 million dollars.  Almost $2 million dollars of the LGUSD budget could be spent elsewhere if we leave these spaces alone.  Note that the multi-million dollar expense of renovating playing fields with artificial turf is completely separate from, and in addition to, this.

Van Meter Elementary's proposed artificially-turfed "Outdoor Classrooms" will be situated in the corridors on the right side of this aerial Google Earth image...

Clips from Van Meter Elementary's "Outdoor Classroom" schematics:

Daves Avenue Elementary's proposed artificially-turfed "Outdoor Classrooms" will be situated in the kindergarten courtyard and in the corridors all found in the upper left of this aerial Google Earth image...

Clips of Daves Avenue Elementary's "Outdoor Classroom" schematics:

Blossom Hill Elementary's proposed artificially-turfed "Outdoor Classrooms" will be situated in the courtyards found in the middle of this aerial Google Earth image...

Clip of Blossom Hill Elementary's "Outdoor Classroom" schematics:

Why is the district proposing to install artificial turf in elementary school courtyards?

Excellent question to ask the district.  Critically evaluate any answers you get.  

The answers given to date are not adequately satisfying community members.  As evidence: 

For every problem motivating the district's proposal, there exists another solution that doesn't include artificial turf.

Is this a responsible amount of money to spend in order to reduce some groundskeeping labor costs and to fix something that's only partially broken?  What could LGUSD do with this almost ~$2 million instead?

How many man-hours of groundskeeping labor are currently being spent annually on these courtyards of these three schools?  How many man-hours of groundskeeping labor will be saved by this courtyard renovation proposal?  This is data that can be made available, no?  Is the labor cost savings significant enough to justify the expense of this renovation? 

Note that a significant part of this funding is available to the district as a result of a contract between LGUSD and the North 40 developers.  The intended spirit of the funds is to enable the district to accommodate increased capacity as LGUSD enrollment rises from students moving into new North 40 housing.  

The district maintains a prioritized list of capital projects that could be chosen instead.  And maybe you readers, teachers, parents, and students have other capital project suggestions you'd like added to the list if you were invited to share them.

While it may constitute a legal use of funds, is it disingenuous to refer to the proposed renovation of spaces like the Van Meter Elementary School courtyard shown below as a solution to "increase capacity"?  What about this existing expanse makes it unusable as an "Outdoor Classroom" today?  How will it accommodate more students with renovation?

It's reported that a mud-pit results from inadequate drainage in the kindergarten courtyard of Daves Avenue Elementary.  Fixing it is a priority, yes.  But surely the drainage in that courtyard can be fixed for less than $2 million. 

Mud is being cited as an urgent problem to solve districtwide.  At Van Meter, are endless days of mud truly an issue preventing existing courtyards from being used as "Outdoor Classrooms"?  Is the impact serious enough to warrant this enormous financial investment?

If the answer is yes, then let's renovate.  If not, maybe we ought to rethink this.

If mud and a reduction in man-hours of groundskeeping labor justifies the investment in Outdoor Classrooms at all proposed schools, at least design these spaces without artificial turf.

From the 11/18/21 board meeting, it became clear some trustees and site staff (like teachers) are imagining that without artificial turf, the courtyards are resigned to become unattractive expanses of concrete and devoid of greenery.  LGUSD's landscape designer, with an obvious affinity for artificial turf, is failing to correct them.  

As a point of clarification for water conservationists, even in drought, Santa Clara Valley Water District does NOT promote installing artificial turf.

A creative landscape designer can design low-water, low-maintenance courtyards with attractive greenery without resorting to artificial turf.  Greenery need not come from natural grass.  Greenery need not even be present on the walking and sitting surfaces at all;  Greenery can be incorporated into courtyard features other than the walking and sitting surfaces via trees and low-maintenance, low water-usage planting beds, bushes, etc.  A design like this can satisfy teachers, it can satisfy water conservationists, and it can avoid adding to the PFAS exposure that threatens the long-term health of us all.