Back to School: New Tools for Local Preservationists

Posted on: October 12th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

Written by Renee Kuhlman

New tools, including siting guidelines and model policies for school districts, will help local preservationists make the case for preserving our older and historic schools.

Yesterday I went back to school. Well, at least the modern day version – I joined a webinar.

While I was a presenter on policy recommendations developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I also had the opportunity to learn about three new tools that will help local preservationists preserve their older and historic schools.

Looking for ways to show how walkable your older school is?  About two years ago Brian Fellows with the Arizona Department of Transportation had the bright idea to develop a tool that would help school districts evaluate the walkability of different school locations. With input from many organizations, including the National Trust and the Arizona Department of Health, Brian created a tool that you can use to illustrate to your local school district just how centrally-located and well-placed our older schools really are.

Looking for model siting policies your school district could adoptThe National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity is developing model policies that will help ensure the continued use of older, walkable schools. Sara Zimmerman announced that they’ll be available from their website in two weeks but gave us a preview yesterday.

Among other things, NPLAN’s model school siting guidelines for Local Education Authorities call for:

  •  coordinated planning (National Trust Advisor and former New Hampshire State Senator Martha Fuller-Clark believed so strongly about this need that she successfully introduced Senate Bill 59 which now ensures closer cooperation between municipalities and school districts throughout her state);
  • finding flexibility in the common practice of requiring a minimum number of students per school, which sometimes leads to closing of smaller (usually older) schools;
  • the sharing of space (both within the school and within the community); communities are more likely to maintain and retain older schools which provide lots of utility and are financially viable.

Looking for help to engaging in the siting process? The US Environmental Protection Agency recently-released voluntary school siting guidelines were released with little fanfare. However, I believe the preservation community should pool our admittedly less-than-robust-resources to throw a big celebration.

Missed this great learning opportunity to “go back to school” and learn about these tools? No sweat. You can visit the Safe Routes to School site and download the archived webinar from there. You can also enjoy the rest of the Fall Webinar Series called “Expanding the School Siting Conversation."




October 18 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST State Strategies for School Siting; Locating Schools for Better Health, Environmental, and Fiscal Outcomes
October 25 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST The Environmental Justice and Preservation Concerns of School Siting
November 1 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST A Live Chat on School Siting and Community-Centered Schools

If you want to go back to school from the luxury of your own computer, this is the way to go!

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School project and always enjoys learning new ways to encourage more community-centered schools. 

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National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

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