New Guide Tells How to Site Schools for Better Walkability

Posted on April 17, 2012

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School siting can influence whether students walk or bike to school. (Photo courtesy of pedbikeimages.org/Dan Burden)

Forty years ago, nearly half of all students walked or biked to school. Now, only 14 percent do. Why the change?

One major factor is school siting, the decisions school leaders make about where to build or rehabilitate schools. Over the past several decades, schools have increasingly been built on the outskirts of communities, too far from children’s homes for walking or biking to be practical. Meanwhile, obesity rates in children and adolescents have more than tripled, and a third of children are overweight or obese.

Locating schools closer to where families live can make it easier for kids to walk and bike to school – and more convenient for families to use school fields and other facilities after hours, when school is closed. When it comes to ethnicity and socioeconomic status, however, few neighborhoods are well integrated – which means students in neighborhood-based schools can be highly segregated, too.

But there are lots of ways to support both walkable and diverse schools. To help districts nationwide make school siting decisions that support their students’ health and educational success, Public Health Law & Policy has just released a set of model school siting policies and other materials. Download these tools today, and contact their team for more information.

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