One of my major concerns about the way the new schools movement has developed is that as new schools are rapidly created, there does not seem to be much attention paid on the ground to integrating school creation with community planning and sustainable design.
Schools are being created in communities all over the nation, but they are far too frequently drop-ins–schools that are created and built without any consideration of or connection to the short and long-term planning that makes for growing, powerful, sustainable communities (see the STAR Community Index: Sustainability Goals and Guiding Principles).
This new STAR planning index is the work of the ICLEI and is intended as a tool for local communities.The index articulates sustainability goals and provides common language and definitions for community planners working on sustainable development. At the end of this post I have included the guiding planning principles outlined by the writers of the Index. I think it is a must read for school leaders and all those who are involved in planning.
School and community planning are both most effective when they are integrated into the same ongoing design process. Community members must be actively invested in the planning process so that the long-term goals of the community are reflected in the structures and purposes of its infrastructure and institutions, especially its schools. and This premise is evident in the planning literature.
BEST (Building Educational Success Together) a collaboration of a number of national education organizations and foundations, for example, recommends four key policies with regards to school planning and location. The first two are relevant:
1) Increase public participation in facilities planning, 2) create and support schools as centers of community that offer school-based supports to children to eliminate barriers to success and serve the broader community
Public schools, enormous expenditures of public wealth, should be centers of community and they should provide return to the community for its investment.
For additional resources on schools and smart growth, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities resource lists are extensive.
clearinghouse is a great source.