School Siting

Explanation: One of the largest challenges pertaining to the long-term future of active transportation involves the location of schools.[69] Recent trends show that schools are locating far from where students live. These trends, which include building schools on the outskirts of towns or along busy highways where land is inexpensive, may temporarily reduce costs but may drive up the longer-term costs of busing and personal transportation while exposing students to a myriad of heath risks.  Robust school siting policies will not only help ensure that students live near enough to schools to walk and bicycle to them, but will also help protect the health of future generations.

School siting is a complex issue, and we recommend that districts address the issue comprehensively by working through ChangeLab Solutions’ detailed Model School Siting Policies for School Districts, which enable districts to thoroughly evaluate school siting procedures and adopt effective policies.  The policy contained herein is a first step.

Option 1: District acknowledges the importance of schools’ locations for students and for the entire community, including the importance of locating schools in or near residential neighborhoods and in central locations in order to (i) achieve important benefits for students’ health, (ii) allow students to engage in active transportation to and from school, and (iii) provide students and community members the opportunity to use school grounds for play and physical activity when school is not in session.[70]

In making school siting determinations (including selecting new sites, renovating or rebuilding on existing sites, and closing existing schools), District shall give high priority to locations that:

  1. are walkable and bikeable [and provide access to public transportation] for a substantial proportion of the assigned student body;
  2. have routes that support safe and active transportation to and from school;
  3. support racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity;
  4. are near other community resources.

District shall also prioritize maintaining and retrofitting older school buildings over new construction. 

 

 

Rating: 
3

Option 2: District acknowledges the importance of schools’ locations for students and for the entire community, including the importance of locating schools in or near residential neighborhoods and in central locations in order to (i) achieve important benefits for students’ health, (ii) allow students to engage in active transportation to and from school, and (iii) provide students and community members the opportunity to use school grounds for play and physical activity when school is not in session.[70]

In making school siting determinations (including selecting new sites, renovating or rebuilding on existing sites, and closing existing schools), District shall give high priority to locations that:

  1. are walkable and bikeable [and provide access to public transportation] for a substantial proportion of the assigned student body;
  2. have routes that support safe and active transportation to and from school;
  3. support racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity;
  4. are near other community resources.

District shall also prioritize maintaining and retrofitting older school buildings over new construction.  

In addition, District shall coordinate its land use planning with your jurisdiction and offer opportunities for public input during the planning process.  District shall conduct feasibility studies to determine the full cost of school siting, including, among other things:

  1. A comparison of renovation and new construction options;
  2. The cost of demolition, student transportation, and extending infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, and sewers for any new construction; and
  3. An evaluation of school siting decisions and their impact on land-use patterns, student transportation costs, number of vehicle miles traveled, and greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 

Rating: 
3

Do not include this element in my policy.

Getting Started

Each page of the Policy Builder consists of an explanation of one policy element, followed by one or more potential choices for wording of that element.  Read the explanation, then read each of the element choices.  

  • If you don't want to include this element in your policy at all, click on "Do not include this element in my policy." 
  • If you do want to include this element, click the wording you'd like to use for that element.  In general, the first option on the page is the least stringent, and each subsequent options becomes more stringent.  After each is a "Score," represented by 1 to 3 stars.  The more stars, the more stringent the wording, and the stronger that element will be in your policy.

At the bottom of the page you'll see "Previous" and "Next" buttons which you can use to navigate through the twenty-six different elements in the policy.

In the left sidebar you'll see a list of policy elements, organized into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.  In addition to using Previous and Next, you may jump directly to any section. 

When you've addressed all the elements, click the "Finish" link, or simply click the "Next" button on the last element in the list.  You'll receive a score based on the policy choices you made, as well as some suggestions as to how to improve that score and make your policy stronger.  You can follow those links, or use the links in the left sidebar to change any of your choices.

When you're satisfied with all your choices, return to the "Finish" page and click the "Download My Policy" button to save a copy of your policy to your computer.  You can open and further edit this file in Microsoft Word or any other word processor. 

If you have any questions, please contact us at policybuilder@changelabsolutions.org or use the "Help with Policy Builder" link in the left sidebar.

That's it!  Click "Get Started" below to begin your Safe Routes to School policy!

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Each policy is eligible for a given number of stars, depending upon how much the policy contributes to creating a safe and encouraging atmosphere for children to walk and bicycle to school. Some policies are only eligible for one star, others for two stars, and others for three stars. For some policies, selecting a stronger option may provide additional stars.


Users of this document should be aware that every funding source has different requirements governing the appropriate use of their funds. Under U.S. law, no federal funds are permitted to be used for lobbying or to influence, directly or indirectly, specific pieces of pending or proposed legislation at the federal, state, or local levels. Organizations should consult appropriate legal counsel to ensure compliance with all rules, regulations, and restrictions of any funding sources.