Policy Recommendations for Encouraging Community-Centered Schools

Community-centered schools provide a wealth of benefits, not only for student learning and health, but also for the community at large. They can help:

  • Reduce student transportation costs;
  • Provide more opportunities for physical activity by students and residents;
  • Improve air quality by lowering emissions;
  • Lower construction and operating costs;
  • Increase community support for public education facilities; and
  • Ensure the continued vitality of our communities.

However, community-centered schools do not occur by accident. There are ways state and local policy makers can encourage more community-centered schools. No one approach or policy will be enough; some combination of reforms should be adopted. Because of the unique policy framework in each state, remedial actions will vary. In some instances, the barriers may be addressed by rule changes; others will require legislative remedies.

10 Ways to Encourage More Community-Centered Schools

  1. Eliminate the requirement for a minimum number of acres per school site (so-called “minimum acreage standards”) that prevent walkable school locations.
  2. Modify the minimum school enrollment requirements that promote closure of smaller schools.
  3. Place renovation options on a level playing field with new construction -- in both policy and in practice.
  4. Raise public awareness that older schools can be renovated for 21st century educational needs and incorporate green technology.
  5. Compare all costs of siting decisions including transportation, health, and infrastructure (new roads, sewers, site acquisition).
  6. Make sure schools are part of coordinated, sustainable land use planning.
  7. Help schools and municipalities work together (e.g., share demographic data and planning tools) to maximize utility and cost-savings for the community.
  8. Insist on timely maintenance to keep older and historic schools in good repair.
  9. Provide equitable funding for school facilities across the state and within school districts to encourage more private and public investment in our older communities.
  10. Evaluate state support of student transportation and school construction to prevent inadvertent outcomes such as disinvestment in our older communities.

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