School Siting and Design plus traffic planning are key elements to consider when designing a community where walking and biking are easy, convenient and safe. They are also good examples of how the built environment can influence children’s health.
When new schools are built a long distance from where families live, then children need to be driven to school, depriving them of an opportunity for physical activity, and contributing to air pollution and risk for automobile crashes. On the other hand, if schools are located within walking or biking distance of where people live, and if safe routes to school are provided, then children can make walking or biking a part of their daily lives, establishing healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
Much is now known about designing and building (or renovating) schools in ways that promote children’s health and school performance. Healthy schools provide plenty of light and fresh air, and use building materials that do not pose hazards to children.
In the 2004 eition of Creating Connections: CEFPI Guide for Educational Facility Planning) published by CEFPI, school districts are now 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. Refer to A Primer on the Renovation and Rehabilitation of Older/Historic Schools and Schools for Successful Communities: An Element of Smart Growth for more details.
Senate Bill 242- Safety Amendment to State Regulations
In 2007, Senate Bill 242 amended ORS 332.176. It includes a requirement for school districts to evaluate potential safety improvements for any bond-funded project that costs more than $1 million. The requirements state that prior to receiving approval from the electors of the school district for bonded indebtedness for a large construction project, a school district shall:
(a) Evaluate the need for safety improvements within one mile of an elementary school or 1.5 miles of a secondary school where the large construction project is to be completed. The safety improvements should provide safer alternative routes to schools and may include improvements for pedestrians, bicycles and motor vehicles.
(b) Evaluate the potential for joint funding of safety improvements with other public and private entities.
(c) Consider including the funding of safety improvements within the funding of the large construction project. The consideration of and the school district board’s decision on the funding for safety improvements as part of a large construction project shall be part of the public record relating to the project. [2007 c.163 §1]
In addition, SB 962 passed in 2007 stating that “City and county governing bodies shall work with school district personnel to identify barriers and hazards to children walking or bicycling to and from school. The cities, counties and districts may develop a plan for the funding of improvements designed to reduce barriers and hazards. The school districts shall work with cities and counties when making school siting decisions to ensure that the decisions place priority on factors that facilitate walking or bicycling to and from school by children.”
Oregon Specific Resources
US Environmental Protection Agency: School Siting Guidelines
Centers for Disease Control-Healthy Places