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Walkable Neighborhood Schools
Introduction
 
As the cost of transporting students to and from school has risen, so has interest in locating schools on sites to which students can walk or bike safely and easily.  School districts are re-examining outdated acreage standards that often force schools onto large, remote sites accessible only by motor vehicles.  The publications noted below discuss new approaches to re-creating (or simply preserving and upgrading) walkable neighborhood schools that give students transportation choices while serving their time-honored role as centers of community.  These publications include the: 
  • Schools at the Heart of Communities, a joint effort by the Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program and the Oregon School Boards Association.  This Fall 2006 issue of the OSBA's Critical Issues publication includes case studies on well-sited schools to which students can walk or bike.  It also discusses recent changes in thinking about site sizes. 
  • Oregon School Siting Handbook, a resource developed jointly by the Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program (TGM) and the University of Oregon's Community Planning Workshop.  Grants for local projects to improve the safety of biking and walking routes to school will soon be available through the Oregon Safe Routes to School Program.

Acreage Standards for School Sites
 
Until recently, the Arizona-based Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) recommended large sites for new schools.  CEFPI's old guidelines called for a minimum of one acre of land for every 100 students plus 10 acres for an elementary school, 20 acres for a middle school, and 30 acres for a high school.  Thus an elementary school with 300 students would need 13 acres; a middle school with 600 students, 26 acres; and a high school with 2,000 students, 50 acres.  Because sites that large could rarely be found in built-up communities, school districts often found it necessary to build schools on outlying farmland or on remote sites to which few students could walk or bike.   But under new guidelines (Creating Connections: CEFPI Guide for Educational Facility Planning/2004 Edition) published by CEFPI in 2004, school districts are encouraged to base the size of school sites on educational program needs instead of on arbitrary acreage standards.  This more flexible approach has the potential of reducing "school sprawl" and of making it easier for communities to build (or preserve and renovate) schools on smaller sites located in walkable neighborhoods, as opposed to constructing stand-alone facilities on large, remote sites accessible only by car or bus.   Other publications by CEFPI include: A Primer on the Renovation and Rehabilitation of Older/Historic Schools and Schools for Successful Communities: An Element of Smart Growth.

Smart Growth Schools
 
Information resources on the topic of Smart Growth and Schools have been developed by several organizations, including the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities and Smart Growth America.  Special reports and major articles on this subject include:
 

Renovation of Older/Historic Schools
 
Many older and historic schools are located in walkable neighborhoods.  According to one study (Wait for the Bus), students are four times more likely to walk to schools built before 1983 than to those built after 1983.  The renovation and modernization of older schools can often offer communities a way to keep student transportation costs down.   
 
Historic Neighborhood Schools, a section on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's web site, provides links to numerous resources on ways to renovate older schools.  These resources include 40 case studies on successfully renovated historic schools, a power point presentation, a report on state policies and school facilities, and a guide to restoration/replacement of schools.
 
Neighborhood Schools: by Thomas Hylton, author of Save Our Land, Save Our Towns.  Site includes link to Renovate or Replace: The Case for Restoring and Reusing Older School Buildings
 
TGM: Better Ways to Better Places