POLICY (Community Planning)
There are few states or school districts with policy requirements for regular and comprehensive facility planning. As a result, far too many school districts manage facilities through crisis. They wait until schools become severely overcrowded or for a building system failure before fixing problems. In school districts where planning is done, they seldom seek adequate local school and community input to formulate an effective plan.
In addition, most municipalities are not required to incorporate public schools into their comprehensive plans. This failure to connect communities and schools is costly. However, states can establish policies that create incentives, impose mandates, and lift barriers to collaborative planning among school districts and municipalities.
To ensure that there is broad public participation in regular educational facility planning and that educational facility planning is a regular part of state, city, town, and school plans.
Broad community involvement in school facility planning means an open, regular, public process. This can help identify educational and community needs and create solutions for school building and other neighborhood and community problems. It also can increase long-term community support for schools, which yields positive benefits for the community and for students. This type of planning also recognizes a growing number of people do not have a direct relationship with the public schools. These citizens have needs that can be served at or near the public school building.
Educational Facility Planning coordinated with other comprehensive and related public agency planning yields the most efficient and cost effective use of taxpayer dollars. School facility planning assures that public schools fit into the community’s overall growth and zoning plans. Developing a dialogue between the various planning entities can foster an exchange of information and data. That way, comprehensive plans can address all stakeholder needs and requirements. Integrating school facility planning into municipal plans that then complement educational facility plans can reduce or eliminate the negative effects of isolated planning. Otherwise, the side effects of independent planning can lead to overcrowded schools, underutilized schools, sprawl, and increased costs for public infrastructure.
Integrating school facility planning creates opportunities to establish the school building as a focal point in the neighborhood or community and to develop a sense of pride and identity. Cooperative planning stirs community creativity in building and land utilization. For example, this could economically combine needs and requirements for schools, recreation, daycare, senior citizens, health and social services, and libraries.