How do school siting policies affect school travel patterns?

In many places it is common to see aging neighborhood elementary schools  close and be replaced by "consolidated" elementary school that is located in a farm field somewhere off a major arterial road or state highway. This often makes walking and biking to school very difficult.

The following are examples of what some communities are doing around school siting that supports walkability and bike-ability:

  • In Wisconsin, the legislature passed a law in which School Districts can request the Department of Transportation (DOT)'s help in school siting and location design. However, one challenge is that land is usually acquired and the building has started before school districts think to notify local city/county officials or ask for traffic assistance from DOT. It is important that these agencies coordinate their efforts as soon as the need for a new building(s) and/or new location is identified.
  • As part of its smart growth initiative, the state of Maryland relaxed the acreage requirements for schools, and put a priority on renovating old schools rather than building new schools.
  • South Carolina also passed a law relaxing acreage requirements.
  • Policy Package: Model School Siting Policies for School Districts, a resource developed by NPLAN to Prevent Childhood Obesity, provides information and a starting place for districts looking to support student achievement, student health, and community wellness when considering school location in the site selection phase.
  • Walkable Neighborhood Schools is a joint project of the Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program and the Oregon School Boards Association that provides principles for planning new schools and case studies of successful schools in Oregon.
  • Wake County, NC School Bus Transportation Policies prohibit students within the 1.5 mile school zone to ride the bus barring significant safety or medical issues.

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