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New Phoenix grant program brings shade trees to low-income public schools

As the weather begins to warm up, the city of Phoenix is kicking off a new program to plant more shade trees around schools. 

On Tuesday morning, volunteers and students helped put 80 drought-tolerant trees in the ground around two schools in the Isaac School District in west Phoenix. The district was the first to receive trees through the city’s  Canopy for Kids grant program.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego picked up a shovel to help with the first planting.

"We all know that in the summer, you’ll see people in Phoenix standing behind a single light post for like, 2 inches of shade. Here, we’re hoping to make a much bigger difference and really have great shade cover, more comfort," Gallego said. 

By the end of this year, the city’s Office of Heat Response and Mitigation plans to bring new trees and irrigation systems to five more public school districts — all in low income neighborhoods.

Gallego said that’s important, since areas of high poverty tend to have fewer trees.

"Right now, they tend to be in some of the wealthiest areas, and we want our entire city to have a great standard of tree and shade cover," Gallego said. 

The first round of Canopy for Kids grants was paid for with $2 million from the American Rescue Plan Act paid. Beyond this year, the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation expects it will be able to use other federal funding to continue the program.

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.