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School Siting Policies

SRTS Toolkit

School districts may adopt guidelines for siting new school buildings. Ideally, these policies would ensure that schools are located in walkable areas close to where students live.


School Siting, the determination of where a school will be placed geographically in relation to the community it is intended to serve, is one of the most important decisions school boards make.” (California Active Communities, California Department of Public Health)

In a national survey, distance was the top reason reported by parents for why they drove their child to school.  With the national trend to build larger schools, often located on the outskirts of towns, students travel to school from a wider geographic area.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency noted in Travel and Environmental Implications of School Siting that school proximity to students matters.  Students with shorter walk and bicycle times to school are more likely to walk or bicycle.

>>> Read the Smart School Planning Guide, from ChangeLabSolutions, for recommendations on 10 elements of smart school siting.  The Guide is available under Documents and Resources on the right.


School siting policies can include co-location near city or county parks, trails and libraries, and guidance on considering a site’s active transportation potential when deciding on school closures if enrollments decline.

School siting policies should consider potential future changes in student routes to school caused by future temporary or perminant school closures.

The siting and design of Gratts Primary and Early Education Center in Los Angeles was a collaborative process involving the school, the neighborhood, advocates and local government. The school is located in a dense urban Los Angeles neighborhood and is sited next to an affordable housing complex, an after school activity center and a public plaza. It is designed as a community space as well as an educational space.


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