Helping Johnny Walk to School

Despite a growing awareness about the numerous benefits of community-centered schools, far too many existing schools continue to be threatened with abandonment and new schools continue to be built far from the residents they serve.

In 2008, the National Trust launched the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities Through Smart Policy project to find ways states could encourage more community-centered schools.

A community-centered school:

  • Is located near the families it serves, allowing students to walk or bike to school and frequent interactions between students, teachers, and parents.
  • Uses, expands, or adapts centrally-located schools or other types of buildings to provide a 21st century education.
  • Is accessible via multiple modes of transportation.
  • Is included in the school district's master facilities plan and is integrated with other land uses through a broad community planning process.
  • Uses existing roads and sewers and avoids extending infrastructure when possible.
  • Shares space with other entities and allows after-hours access to school facilities.
  • Is broadly supported by the community – including passage of bonds for upgrading school facilities – because the facilities are used by residents of all ages.
  • Is relatively small – based on reasonable enrollment sizes and draws from catchment areas – so that it fits well within the neighborhood.
  • Reflects good civic design that generates public pride and allows it to be centrally-located 

Report and Policy Recommendations for Encouraging Community-Centered Schools

Through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and with support from Building Educational Success Together, the National Trust brought together partners in nine states with education, health, transportation, and planning experts to develop the following report and policy recommendations. :

By reforming policy and practices as outlined in the report, states and localities can strengthen public schools and reduce carbon emissions and air pollution, preserve older neighborhoods and open space, and encourage healthier citizens and communities.