Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Return of Neighborhood Schools?

One of the biggest losers in the spread of sprawl has been the good ole' neighborhood school.  If you're like me, you might have walked or biked to elementary school with other kids from the neighborhood. 

Unfortunately, the era of crossing guards and bike racks has suffered as school systems moved toward more remote school locations that were not legally and/or safely accessible by walking or biking.

A major driver in this change was the adoption of minimum school site acreage laws by numerous states.  Under these laws, a new school site had to be composed of a minimum number of acres in order to be built.   Oftentimes, this "minimum" was so high that smaller school sites embedded in neighborhoods were not legal as a matter of right.

Awhile back, I wrote a law review article that discussed this issue and the damaging effects it has had on student health and academic performance (among other things).  Fortunately, the trend is now away from minimum site acreage requirements (though, here in Alabama, the Department of Education refuses to get on-board with this and remains stuck in the past on this important issue).

One example is in South Carolina where the abandonment of large minimum acreage standards has seen the return of a neighborhood school in at least one community.

Read more about this exciting transformation here.

Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.


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