245786 Enabling Healthy Urban Planning: The Case of School Siting

Monday, October 31, 2011: 4:30 PM

Joseph Schuchter, MCP, MPH , School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Background: A convergence of major secular trends suggests that school siting is increasingly critical for healthy communities. The challenges of an aging population, rising energy costs, and a strained education system suggest a need for community-centered schools. However, some school districts continue to invest in new facilities without involving community stakeholders, particularly those from urban planning and public health.

Purpose: To examine the context for and practice of school siting in three large school districts in Northern Kentucky.

Significance: Few studies have examined the role of healthy urban planning in the education sector.

Methodology: A mixed-methods approach was used. Descriptive statistics on school funding, growth, and transportation characteristics were calculated at the school district level. Patterns of neighborhood development and school siting were visualized using GIS. Finally, key informant interviews elicited perspectives of leaders from the school districts and planning agencies.

Findings/Results: Many interrelated factors determine how and where schools are sited. The districts studied showed a trend towards larger more sprawling schools, thereby incurring potentially greater overhead and opportunity costs. Development patterns confirmed school sprawl. Themes from interviews included the primary challenges of collaboration, growth pressures, and financing schedules; these appeared to have substantial influence on siting decision-making, though the precise pathways are unclear.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Though macro-level issues may constrain school siting decision-making, at the local level, school districts which proactively seek collaboration with planning and public health agencies should be able to get ahead of the growth curve and connect their schools to their communities.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Describe the process of school facilities planning Understand the perspectives of stakeholders and context in which they work Identify challenges and opportunities for incorporating health into the process of school siting

Keywords: Community Planning, Collaboration

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted in-depth research on this particular topic and have drawn this presentation from my successful Masters thesis. I also have degrees in both planning and public health and am pursuing this topic further in my doctoral work.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.