Open Charter School

The Open Charter School demonstration project is an example of cooperation between government and nonprofit agencies in the creation of an environmentally sustainable school.

The challenge

Prior to the project, hard pavement covered much of the Los Angeles Open Charter School campus in Westchester. There were few shade trees to cool the campus and a lack of grassy play areas for the children. In addition, the paved surfaces contributed to rainwater becoming wasted runoff.


A sustainable solution

A Santa Monica Bay Restoration grant provided TreePeople, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the L.A. County Open Space District and L.A.’s Bureau of Sanitation with the opportunity to green this hardscaped elementary campus and emulate some of its original watershed functions.

Working in conjunction with DWP's Cool Schools program and the L.A. Unified School District, TreePeople installed an integrated set of best management practices at the site.


An underground treatment-and-storage facility captures campus runoff and reduces the pollutant load to Santa Monica Bay. New playing fields above a 110,000-gallon underground cistern provide much-needed recreation space. Additionally, a forest that includes 88 new trees, swales and other vegetation enhances this urban campus.


Stormwater separator to filter rainwater

The stormwater separator, a Vortechs 7000, uses the mechanics of moving water to settle sediment, skim off pollutants and separate trash from campus runoff before it's delivered to the cistern (or to the storm drains, if the cistern is full).


Cistern to store rainwater 

After it passes through the separator, much of the campus’ stormwater is stored in a cistern for landscape irrigation. The Open Charter cistern is not a conventional tank, but an assembly of open plastic matrices. They support a heavy PVC liner that keeps the captured water in place. If the cistern reaches capacity, excess water is treated then released to the storm drains.

More information about the Open Charter School demonstration project is available in the report Rainwater as a Resource.