Community growth places greater demands on school systems, creating the need for more or expanded schools. Similarly, new schools bring about increases in traffic congestion, along with residential development surrounding new school sites. In school siting, the decisions of multiple entities are at play; it's therefore increasingly important that school districts, local governments, developers, and all involved parties work together to site schools.
Community decisions on school construction must meet multiple goals -- educational, fiscal, and environmental. But we are also challenged to confront the ways in which school location affects how children get to school -- walking, biking, busing or driving. Families' travel choices have a major impact on traffic congestion, air pollution, school district budgets, and quality-of-life in our region. Through collaboration on school siting, we have an opportunity to build schools that better serve & support students, educators, parents, and communities.
In January 2010, the Nashville Area MPO hosted the first ever regional symposium dedicated to offering strategies that our area might employ for locating schools in ways that benefit entire communities - moving beyond the "big box" method of acquiring land and facilities. Working together, and identifying creative solutions, school districts, cities & counties can locate schools that take advantage of existing resources, are easily and safely accessible, and genuine community anchors.
An impressive number of leaders attended the event. In all, more than 90 political leaders, school board members, transportation and land use planners, school facility planners, architects, engineers, and acedemia from across Middle Tennessee came together to discuss the importance of working together to plan for future schools and to make the communities around those already built more walkable and bikeable for students.
The symposium was held at the Martin Professional Development Center, an impressive re-use of a former elementary school. Today the building provides a state-of-the-art center for continuing education programs for professionals in a variety of fields.
National Experts Share Lessons from other Areas of the Nation
National experts Dr. David Salvesen, a researcher on collaborative school planning and Deputy Director of UNC's Center for Sustainable Community Design, and Matthew Dalbey from the U.S. EPA's Smart Growth Program provided participants with an in-depth overview of the overaching challenges with school siting as well a look at what some parts of the country are doing to find solutions.
In addition to their presentations, both were able to sit down with us for a one-on-one interview to provide additional insight into the issue.
Area Leaders Discuss Challenges
Our region faces unique challenges when siting schools: funding, land availability, transportation, and coordinated planning. To help better understand the nuances of our region, Dr. David Salevesen facilitated an expert panel comprised of Williamson County School Board Chair Pat Anderson, Joe Edgens, Facility Planner for Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Gary Clardy, Facility Planner for Rutherford County Schools.
Participants Had a Choice to Attend Two of Six Break-Out Sessions
- School Siting and Health
- School Siting and Transportaion
- School Siting and Green Building (LEED)
- School Siting and Historic Preservation
- Intergovernmental Collaboration in School Planning
- School Siting and Parks
Guest Speaker Biographies
Matt Dalbey, US Environmental Protection Agency
Matthew Dalbey is a senior policy analyst with the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Development, Community and Environment Division. The division collaborates with a network of environmental, land use, transportation, design and community-based organizations to highlight the environmental benefits of best practices and innovations in smart growth development. Dalbey writes about and has spoken to a variety of audiences around the country on smart growth in rural areas, states policies that support better development patterns, school siting, and a range of other issues related to growth and development. Prior to joining EPA in 2004, Dalbey spent five years on the faculty at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS where he taught in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. He is a practicing planner and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
The author of one book and several articles on planning, Dalbey is also co-author of the soon-to-be-released Voluntary Model School Siting Guidelines that will be published by the EPA this spring. He lives with his family in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Dr. David Salvesen, Center for Sustainable Community Design at the Institute for the Environment, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Dr. David Salvesen is the Deputy Director of the Center for Sustainable Community Design at the Institute for the Environment, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His research focuses on land use policies, issues and trends and their impact on the environment and the quality and character of communities.
He is currently working on a two-year research project with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that examines the impact of State Policies on School Siting. The project will examine the factors that motivate states to adopt policies limiting the size of sites for new schools and the impact of such policies on the size of school sites.
Dr. Salvesen received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is the author of many peer-reviewed journal articles on land use and physical activity, school siting, collaborative school planning, active transportation, smart codes and the Coastal Barrier Resources Act. He has conducted research on Hazard Mitigation Policy, Emergency Preparedness and Environmental Hazards exposed to children in public schools.
Sharon Roerty, National Center for Bicycling and Walking
Sharon Z. Roerty is the Executive Director at the National Center for Bicycling and Walking and is the Director of the Active Living Resource Center (ALRC). Her expertise is in environmental, transportation and land use planning; and advocating for change. Sharon serves on the America Bikes Board of Directors; Safe Routes to School (SRTS) National Partnership Steering Committee and Federal Initiatives Committee; Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center International Advisory Group; was appointed to the Federal SRTS Task Force by the Secretary of the US Department of Transportation; and is a member of the National Center for SRTS National Review Group. She is a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals; NJ Council of Physical Fitness & Sports; and the Pedestrian Injury Prevention Program in Newark, NJ. She has a Masters in City and Regional Planning, and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Sharon is an avid walker and bikes for fun.