The City of Fresno has reached an agreement with two local school districts to keep a handful of campuses open on weekends for community recreation.
The deal which was announced Monday involves both the Fresno Unified and Central Unified school districts.
The agreement aims to open seven high school campuses by March, with an additional seven to open by May. The campus grounds will be open between 9am and 5pm on weekends.
Fresno Unified School Board President Luis Chavez says the effort is a partnership between the districts and the city.
Chavez: "It's not just simply opening up schools. It's also including some recreational opportunities for the communities around. We'll have fitness trainers and some health programs."
Chavez says the district has also invested in new safety measures including high-definition cameras and additional lighting on the campuses.
The city has come under intense criticism from community groups over the lack of park space in older parts of town. Chavez, who also works at city hall as Chief of Staff for Councilmember Sal Quintero, says he hopes the city and school district will continue to work together as the city develops a parks master plan next year.
Chavez: "We know that there are neighborhoods that are park deserts, where they don't have facilities. And this ties indirectly to the challenges we have with youth having too much time on their hands, and not having enough places to go. Then they get involved with gangs and drugs and vandalism. I really feel this will be a great measure on preventing a lot of those challenges. It's not just about suppression it's about intervention and prevention. This is one piece of that puzzle."
City officials say the project will cost $1.2 million and will open the equivalent of 340 acres of green space to city residents.