School Siting


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. The location has tremendous impact on students, teachers, families, neighborhoods and the learning environment.

California Active Communities within the California Department of Public Health supports school siting and joint use policies and practices that:

  • Encourage kids to walk and bike to school;
  • Discourage car trips that cause air pollution and damage the environment; and
  • Position schools as neighborhood centers that offer residents recreational, civic, social, and health services easily accessible by walking or biking.

One in seven of California’s youth is overweight. Today, our children’s overall health is affected by levels of physical inactivity which can be directly linked to time spent in automobiles versus engaged in active transportation such as walking and biking.

Walking and biking provide many physical, environmental and economic benefits. Increased physical activity helps prevent obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, osteoporosis, arthritis, colon cancer and hypertension. Well placed schools improve air quality, decrease traffic congestion and lessen noise pollution. In addition, vibrant neighborhood schools have been shown to increase values of nearby residential property and positively contribute to a community’s overall quality of life.

California Active Communities works with public health professionals, planners, engineers, school officials, public safety personnel and key community stakeholders to support built environment policies that promote opportunities for incidental, everyday physical activity through general plan elements, zoning controls, community redevelopment, and school siting.

California Active Communities Participates in Hosting Statewide Forum:

Building Schools, Building Communities: A Forum on the Role of State Policy in California was convened on June 11 – 12, 2007, at the University of California-Berkeley, and sponsored by the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and the UC Berkeley Center for Cities & Schools (CC&S) in close partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Active Communities within the California Department of Public Health.

Bringing together more than 40 policymakers and practitioners from across the state as well as national experts, the forum examined the wide range of California state policies on school planning, design, and construction, and the ways those policies influence local decisions This forum was designed to open a needed dialog and critical discussion on the massive and growing investment in public school construction funding in California, where more than $30 billion in state bonds has been passed over the past five years. To read the full report go to: [PDF]

Additional School Siting Resources:

The Center for Cities and Schools:
The Center’s mission is to promote high quality education as an essential component of urban and metropolitan vitality. Their approach is through interdisciplinary research, professional education, and collaborative practice.

New Schools, Better Neighborhoods (NSBN)
This organization promotes the community joint use of schools by way of designing smaller school facilities that can build upon and accommodate existing community land and facilities to save on the time, money, land, and other resources used to duplicate functions elsewhere.

Travel to School: The Distance Factor
Travel to School National Household Traffic Survey [PDF]
The National Household Travel Survey released January 2008, describes how travel to school has changed dramatically over the last 40 years.

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