Civic

Hide and Seek: Where Is Your School?

Posted on: September 27th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman

A new tool, developed by Arizona Safe Routes to School, evaluates walkability of school sites. (Photo: Dan Burden, www.pedbikeimages.org)

A new tool, developed by Arizona Safe Routes to School, evaluates walkability of school sites. (Photo: Dan Burden, www.pedbikeimages.org)

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of presenting to health and transportation officials on a webinar entitled, “Hide and Seek: Where is Your School and How Do You Get There?” for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (If you choose to listen to the webinar, rest assured that while I sound like I’m about 12 years old, I - and my gray hairs - can assure you I’m not.)

The foundation's Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity is hosting a series of webinars about transportation changes that could help our kids live more active lives. Way cool … check them out.

In the 10 minutes allotted to address school siting, I tried to cram in as many snippets of my favorite reports as possible. But I’m afraid that I didn’t do the past decade of research much justice. While we could mark it down to my inexperience with this new technology or my inability to get “out of the weeds,” I think it was something different … I think the problem is something we preservationists know first-hand: Where communities choose to locate their schools is complicated … very, very complicated.

It’s not a simple process to begin with—there are lots of players and lots of issues to consider. It’s also confusing—in some states it takes multiple manuals full of pull-out diagrams to spell out the steps for funding, siting, designing, and repairing or constructing a school. It’s also a political process, which also tends to complicate things. States play a role in the process—through funding and administration—whether or not they want to be involved in such a “local” issue. Then preservationists such as ourselves, along with those in the health, planning, transportation, environmental and other fields, want decision-makers to take into account their suggestions when deciding the best place to locate a school.

By sharing space, schools can develop a new source of revenue which may help prevent schools from being closed.  (Photo: Adrian Scott Fine)

By sharing space, schools can develop a new source of revenue which may help prevent schools from being closed. (Photo: Adrian Scott Fine)

So, it is with great joy that I can share with you a couple of new tools that have recently been launched that will help us encourage the continued use of older schools.

A Joint Use Calculator, developed by colleagues at the 21st Century School Fund and the Center for Cities and Schools at the University of California-Berkeley, helps calculate how much a school district currently spends to operate a gymnasium, or theater, or even a classroom. Armed with that knowledge, they can then decide upon “what’s a fair fee” to charge other entities for using a school’s space.

Why is this important? Because this tool can help older and historic schools become more economically-viable. The inventors of the calculator, Mary Filardo and Jeff Vincent, spoke about its uses on a recent webinar for the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF).

Now meet my colleague Brian Fellows. Brian’s the Safe Routes to School Coordinator for the state of Arizona, has a great sense of humor, and a really laid-back demeanor … until you get him talking about ways to encourage more students to bike and walk. That’s when you see the fire in his eyes and the passion in his heart.

To help folks measure the walkability of school sites, Brian pulled together the Active School Neighborhood Checklist with the help of many volunteers and his own personal blood, sweat, and tears. Written for non-engineers like me, the checklist weighs the many factors that make a school site walkable—everything from policy to pedestrian safety.

In my biased option, I believe that older and historic schools will score high on the checklist 99.9% of the time and help us make the case for their retention. But don’t believe me, get out there and evaluate your own neighborhood school.

This brings me to my final point. Preservationists need to join with those interested in reducing waistlines and budgets. We need to work with those who are concerned about property values as well as those concerned about property taxes. Our best buddies should be those encouraging walkability and climate change. There are a lot of places where preservation interests converge with others around school siting. By creating a broad coalition, we can ensure a healthier future for both our children and our communities.

In addition to wanting to hear about coalitions being developed to encourage community-centered schools in your area, Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities project.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

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.

Public Education and Sustainable Community Planning in California

Posted on: September 16th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Elaine Stiles  

California has over 10,000 schools, with districts ranging in size from seven to nearly 700,000 students. Pictured here is a historic high school building in El Segundo.

Ten thousand schools. Districts ranging in size from seven to nearly 700,000 students. More than $100 billion (yes, billion) in state and local school bond issues in the past decade. Approximately 1,000 independent school districts that operate outside of local and regional planning and approval processes.  

These are just a few features of the vast, complex landscape that is school facilities planning in California.  

Two weeks ago in Sacramento, approximately 50 educators, planners, environmental professionals, policy analysts – and me representing the preservation field – met to discuss how California can amend its K-12 school facilities planning policies to be more supportive of sustainable community development. The scale of California’s public school system and the state’s recently enacted environmental performance measures make this an essential conversation. Californians produce 1.4% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from motor vehicle trips. To shrink this number, current state law mandates both a reduction of California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (AB 32), and that regional and local planning bodies aid reduction by eliminating vehicle miles traveled by curbing sprawl (SB 375). As in most states, California’s public school districts make decisions about the placement of core community assets that influence growth, transportation, and infrastructure investment patterns, all of which in turn impact a community’s environmental footprint.  

Participants in the round table, Smart Schools for Sustainable Communities: Aligning Sustainable Communities Planning and Public Education in California, recommended changing school siting policies, integrating school facility and local planning efforts, co-locating facilities with other community uses, creating incentives for choosing infill development sites, and increasing state capital investment in existing schools to support greater community sustainability.  

For me, one of the most striking discussions was on increasing state investment in existing school facilities. This topic would naturally prick up the ears of someone like me who cares about maintaining historic and community-centered schools, but incentivizing reuse of existing buildings is also a straightforward and easily-implemented solution to limiting sprawl, reducing costs, and keeping schools near their students.  

As the discussion unfolded, it became clear that the need for capital investment in existing schools in California is high, but that the level of the state’s funding assistance for rehabilitation and retrofitting needs to be reevaluated. The California Department of Education has a $3.3 billion, bond-funded modernization program that assists districts with improvements to existing school facilities. Established in 1968, the program guidelines basically reflect that time period, when building new schools in California’s booming suburbs defined the state’s school facilities program. Parameters such as a 25-year age threshold; a lower state match than for new construction; and eligible activities limited to in-kind replacement, systems upgrades, and new furniture/equipment mean that local districts are responsible for the full cost of substantive rehabilitation, retrofitting, or addition to existing school facilities.  

At present, over $1 billion remains in the modernization program coffers from the last bond issue in 2006. With 10,000 existing schools in operation across the state and a large bubble of mid-to-late 20th century schools nearing the age when they require substantive upgrades, California has a chance to support and incentivize the stewardship of existing infrastructure by retooling its modernization program.  

The public research gathering in Sacramento was the first step in the process of aligning sustainable community growth and public education in California, and the ideas generated and examined there show promise for successfully melding the best of these important values.  

Elaine Stiles is a program officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Western Office. Click here to learn more about the National Trust's efforts to encourage and support community-centered schools.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

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.

[VIDEO] President Obama Talks Preservation at Gathering on Jobs & Economy

Posted on: September 14th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Yesterday afternoon, one of our colleagues - Wendy Nicholas, director of the Northeast Office in Boston - had an opportunity to speak to President Barack Obama about historic preservation. At a small gathering about jobs and the economy hosted by her brother and sister-in-law in Fairfax, VA, Wendy engaged President Obama about his thoughts on preservation as an economic driver. In a lengthy response that touched on schools, National Parks, and the HomeStar legislation, the President revealed that he's both informed and engaged on this issue that's so near and dear to us.

(Please note: the video below seems to be loading very slowly into our blog. You can get it a bit more quickly by clicking this link.)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

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.

The True Cost of Deferring Maintenance in Our Schools

Posted on: September 1st, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman

The Richardson School in Cheyenne, Wyoming (Photo: Mary Humstone)

The Richardson School in Cheyenne, Wyoming (Photo: Mary Humstone)

It’s almost the end of summer and like many school districts across the country, my family is anxious to finish up maintenance projects before school starts again.

As preservationists, we know that regular maintenance is essential to keeping an older structure around for future use. However, according to a recent report from the American Association of School Administrators, the percentage of school districts predicting that they will defer maintenance is rising dramatically. In the 2008-2009 school year, 18 percent of school districts predicted they would defer maintenance; that number rose to 36 percent in 2009-2010. In 2010, more than half of the country’s school districts—55 percent—predicted they would defer maintenance.

In 1995, the Government Accounting Office estimated that $113 billion was needed to bring a third of the country’s K-12 schools into good repair. Today, experts estimate it would take $216 billion dollars (see the 21st Century School Fund’s Repair for Success: An Analysis of the Need and Possibilities for a Federal Investment in PK-12 School Maintenance and Repair for more information).

Industry experts typically recommend that two to four percent of the current replacement value of a building should be spent every year on maintenance (see the National Research Council’s Committing to the Cost of Ownership: Maintenance and Repair of Public Buildings for more information).

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

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.

Lowe's Brings Back Schools in Time for Back-to-School

Posted on: August 24th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

As students are preparing to go back to school, Lowe’s and the National Trust are doing the same.  Today, they announced nearly $500,000 in grants has been awarded for the preservation and rehabilitation of ten historic schools across the country.

The rehabilitated historic schools will serve central roles in their communities as educational centers, cultural and community centers, and more.   For example, the Park Addition School in Cheyenne, WY, will serve as a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Lincoln Creek Day School, Fort Hall, ID

The Lincoln Creek Day School was built as part of a “New Deal” for Native Americans on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho.

These buildings are important pieces of history in their communities and in America. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his first “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Booker T. Washington High School in Rocky Mount, NC.

The Lincoln Creek Day School was built as part of a “New Deal” for Native Americans on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in ID and will continue its rehabilitation project that began with a grant from the National Trust Preservation Fund made possible by the Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation.

Previous years of funding have focused on Rosenwald Schools, and eight were awarded grants earlier this year.  Today, Lowe’s and the National Trust are taking their support nationwide to make a difference in as many communities as possible.

Visit our website to learn more about all ten historic school grant recipients and the Rosenwald School grant recipients.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

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.