Parks and schools making friends

The Minneapolis Board of Education hosted its first annual joint meeting with the Park and Recreation Board on Aug. 30.

The partnership is an effort to provide equitable access to parks by collaborating and pooling resources.

“The beauty of it is, we have a chance now — as the two biggest entities in the city — to serve all the kids in the city,” said Larry Umphrey, interim assistant superintendent for Recreation Services. “It’s going to take some time to start to build this out… but we’re going to work on this fast and furious.”

The two groups discussed shared values, including collaboration, equity, inclusive decision-making, community engagement and accountability.

In a memorandum, the two boards agreed work toward “a collaborative operational network within the Minneapolis community that builds, refines and sustains a continuum of accessible, inclusive, high quality athletic and fitness opportunities and facilities available to all children.”

Tracine Asberry, a member of the school board, emphasized the importance of establishing tangible goals and a timeline.

“We’re using terms that are very inclusive and community minded, and I love that,” Asberry said. “But I want to know what it will look like, feel like, sound like so that we know this collaboration is really doing what we want it to do.”

Improving registration and scheduling systems, prioritizing underserved communities and providing transportation to parks were some practical suggestions made by the joint board.

Kim Ellison, vice chair of the school board, emphasized the importance of providing transportation specifically to pools.

“We need to make sure that all students have access to City Swims,” Ellison said.

City Swims will promote swimming lessons in Minneapolis and is set to begin in October 2017.

The joint board recognized the meeting as a “big step forward.”

“We want to answer the questions that have been asked of us for many years about why we don’t work together better,” said Scott Vreeland, a member of the park board. “Now the question is: how can we develop a system that works for everyone?”