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Old 01-23-06, 04:00 PM   #1
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Police Warn Students "Don't Even Think About Walking"!

I hope this wasn't posted before because it's a good article. It goes to show you how schools created today are only accessable by motor vehicle beause they are surrounded by highways with no sidewalk! It's a good read.





Sprawl vs. Small:
When can Johnny walk to school again?
By David Goldberg
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Gary Howe
Opportunities for students to walk to school are rapidly disappearing.

As students at Fairfield Senior High School in suburban Cincinnati headed back to school this year, they got a message from the local police: Don’t even think about walking.

Law officers issued the warning after the school district eliminated bus service for high school kids during a budget crisis. The school, built in 1997, is set among busy, multi-lane roads with no sidewalks; even students living within a mile of the school were taking the bus if they didn’t go by car. Police were terrified about kids trying to navigate that dangerous environment on foot.

Former Fairfield Mayor Erick Cook, himself an elementary school principal, echoed the plea. “The bottom line is, the school system, developers, and the city failed the kids by neglecting to put in sidewalks,” Mr. Cook said.

But the larger problem, he said, is where the school was built. Given the outsized parking lots and sprawling, single-story designs of most modern high schools, officials looked to the outskirts of town. Because most kids would therefore arrive by car, officials placed the building right next to a busy highway; they even skipped building sidewalks in favor of bussing nearby students to safety.

Fairfield is hardly alone. Mr. Cook’s own school, South Lebanon Elementary in South Lebanon, Ohio, was recently moved from a historic, centrally located building to a site accessible only by car or bus. In fact, that trend is both strong and national. In suburban DeKalb County, Ga., for example, 57 percent of school principals rate the area around their schools as moderately to extremely dangerous for kids on foot or bicycle, according to a county health department survey. Indeed, spread-out schools in unwalkable environments are so common that the phenomenon is called “school sprawl.”

“As the people began to move outward,” Mr. Cook lamented, “you moved away from the ability to create neighborhood schools.”

The slow die-off of neighborhood schools is causing another problem: Mounting evidence suggests that the sheer size and impersonality of new, edge-of-town mega-schools harm kids’ education. This realization is triggering a growing movement for small schools, a cause that is gaining ground with the involvement of the Smart Growth movement, which pushes for better planning instead of the current, willy-nilly rush by developers into green fields. Together, the small schools and Smart Growth movements are now working to change the rules and habits that contribute to school sprawl.

Smaller Is Better
In recent years some educators pushed for larger schools because, they said, such large operations can offer a more comprehensive curriculum and a wider range of activities, from chess club to Japanese club. State and local school officials also liked the economies of scale that stem from greater concentrations of students, services and facilities.

But a growing body of research demonstrating the benefits of smaller schools is providing a large boost to the return of the neighborhood schools. The research, motivated by the concerns of rural communities that are losing their local schools to consolidations, as well as by advocates for smaller, more manageable schools in low-income, urban areas, points to lower drop-out rates and higher average standardized test scores in smaller schools. Children in high-poverty schools see an even more pronounced improvement.

And while larger schools generally show a small savings on spending per student, when that figure is computed for students who actually graduate, the per-graduate cost is actually slightly lower. Moreover, although larger schools can have more extracurricular offerings, participation in after-school activities declines as schools get larger. And a U.S. Department of Education report found that schools with over 1,000 students have much higher crime and vandalism rates than schools with 300 or fewer students. Teacher satisfaction rates are also higher in smaller schools, according to a Chicago study.

Convinced by the research, several philanthropies are supporting the small-schools movement. Since 1994, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent more than $1 billion to improve public schools, primarily through building small high schools. The Gates foundation advocates high schools of 400 students or fewer, arguing that they can “provide a personalized learning environment where every student has an adult advocate. Students in small schools feel less alienated and tend to be more actively engaged in school activities.”

Part of a Smart Growth Puzzle
But small-school advocates face daunting challenges, particularly concerning school funding. Many administrators insist that fewer campuses means reduced administrative and other costs. The notion that big and (typically) new is better than small and (frequently) old is ingrained and difficult to reverse.

Another very thorny issue is the implications for student-body diversity when schools draw from smaller geographic areas.

“There is a bit of a conflict between small schools and integration,” acknowledges Jonathan Weiss, a former Clinton Administration official and author of Public Schools and Economic Development: What the Research Shows, a report for the KnowledgeWorks Foundation. “Because we tend to live in neighborhoods that are segregated by race and income, you often need to draw from a larger area to get a diverse population.”

Some small-schools advocates suggest breaking up existing larger campuses into several schools-within-a-school to make schools smaller while maintaining their diversity. The idea has worked well in some places, including New York City’s Julia Richman Education Complex, which was once a failing, violence-plagued school of thousands. Officials divided the big compound into six smaller schools, each with a distinct identity. Mr. Weiss said he likes the idea, but added that advocacy for small schools won’t succeed if done in a vacuum that disregards other community issues.

“In a way small schools are one part of the larger smart-growth puzzle,” he says. “Communities should be careful about pursuing small schools in isolation from pursuing broader, more integrated Smart Growth strategies. It’s unlikely small schools by themselves will be a panacea.”

A Big Problem
A raft of statistics illustrates just how big and stubborn the school sprawl problem is. As recently as 1969, roughly half of all students walked or biked to school. In 2001, only about one tenth of students did. A South Carolina study discovered that children are four times as likely to walk to schools built before 1983 than to those built after that year, largely because of the increasingly remote and pedestrian-hostile settings of newer schools.

The trend adds to the rising rates of obesity and physical inactivity among kids; today 30 percent of our kids are overweight or obese and a third of middle and high school students are sedentary. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has something to say about school sprawl; it identified a rise in rush-hour traffic associated with school trips and says it is a key contributor to air quality problems in a number of cities.

Critics of school sprawl also note that large, new schools built in previously undeveloped areas often act as a magnet for new residential development, drawing people and resources away from existing schools and neighborhoods. Because school districts and local governments do their planning in isolation from one another, the new growth often takes local officials by surprise, causing them to scramble to build the roads, water mains, sewer lines, and other services to support it.

Another, albeit subtle point: Large, drive-to schools that can’t fit comfortably in neighborhoods fail to serve as the neighborhood resource and focal point that in-town schools so often do.

Signs of Hope
There are signs that the tide is beginning to turn in some states, according to Constance Beaumont, author of Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School, a report by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that was among the first to address the issue of school sprawl.

Ms. Beaumont pointed out that Maryland now prioritizes rehabilitation and construction in urbanized areas, rather than building schools in greenfields. In that state over the last few years, 80 percent of school construction money went to reconstruction and rehabilitation; 10 years ago the figure was only 25 percent.

In 2004 the Michigan Land Use Insitute published Hard Lessons: Causes and Consequences of Michigan’s School Construction Boom, the first detailed review of how school construction decisions — whether to renovate existing buildings or build new, greenfield facilities — are made in Michigan and their effect on development patterns. Hard Lessons, which grew out of a joint project of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Institute, aimed to help school officials, community leaders, homeowners, and parents evaluate the full cost of new school construction or renovation. It recommended changes in state policy that, if implemented, will capture the economic and cultural benefits of renovating older schools or building new ones in town.

In California, a program called Safe Routes to School earmarks one third of federal road-safety money for improvements such as establishing safe pedestrian crossings and adding sidewalks and bikeways. The program is so popular that a version of it is included in proposed federal legislation.

Some school officials are reconsidering the trade-offs involved between rebuilding and staying in town or building new out at the fringe. In Oregon, a study in the Bend-La Pine School District found that, compared to sites on the metro fringe, "sites in higher-density neighborhoods decreased total transportation costs by 32 percent annually and lowered site development costs by 14 percent.” As a result, this fall the district opened Ensworth Elementary School, a compact, two-story prototype neighborhood school designed and located so that all of its 300 students can walk or bike. And nearly all do, said Ms. Beaumont, who now works for Oregon’s transportation and growth management program.

Perhaps most significantly, the Council of Education Facility Planners, an Arizona-based professional association that has long claimed that a 500-student elementary schools requires 15 acres, and a 2,000-student high schools needs 50 acres, is starting to change its tune. CEFPI recently unveiled “Creating Connections,” a re-examination of its siting guidelines that emphasizes viewing schools in the larger community context.

This from an organization that once insisted that if the cost of rehabilitating an older school exceeds 60 percent of the cost of replacement, then it was time to build a new school. Given the organization’s acreage recommendations, that old school was destined for abandonment, while some greenfield somewhere on the edge of town was marked for bulldozing, sprawling construction, lots of cars — and very little walking.

David Goldberg, a regular contributor to the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Elm Street Writers Group, is the communications director for Smart Growth America. Reach him at
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Old 01-23-06, 04:04 PM   #2
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I hope they bought big chairs.
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Old 01-23-06, 04:17 PM   #3
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I hope they bought big chairs.
>>>>>A raft of statistics illustrates just how big and stubborn the school sprawl problem is. As recently as 1969, roughly half of all students walked or biked to school. In 2001, only about one tenth of students did.<<<<<

I think the above statement says a lot.
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Old 01-23-06, 05:25 PM   #4
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A friend had her kid walk to school when he missed the bus due to being a PITA one morning. It's about a mile, with sidewalks, one 2-lane with turn lanes road to cross, with a light. This is in a town of about 5000.
She got a call from the asst. principle saying if she did it again, she'd be talking to protective services on child endangerment charges.
I still can barely believe this. No wonder we're a nation of lard asses.
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Old 01-23-06, 05:31 PM   #5
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A friend had her kid walk to school when he missed the bus due to being a PITA one morning. It's about a mile, with sidewalks, one 2-lane with turn lanes road to cross, with a light. This is in a town of about 5000. She lives about as close as anyone to the school; out to about 3/4 mile it's industrial park and open areas. The sidewalks are well separated from the road, and apart from the crossed road, the other roads are residential or relatively low-traffic.

She got a call from the asst. principle saying if she did it again, she'd be talking to protective services on child endangerment charges.

I still can barely believe this. No wonder we're a nation of lard asses.
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Old 01-23-06, 06:18 PM   #6
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I once lived just 3 blocks from my elementary school, yet the lawyers forced us to ride a bus (a half hour ride) because the cross-walks on the major road/highway were 1/2 mile in either direction. Biking would have been such a no-brainer.

Now my adopted siblings live 3 blocks from school, but my mother only lets them walk if it's with a gang of their friends because she's paranoid about serial killers hiding in the bushes.

Then we have the fricken charter school movement which is trying to destroy the public school system and encourage people to send their kids to schools many miles away...
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Old 01-23-06, 08:52 PM   #7
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Driving to school was an incredibly foreign idea when I was a kid. It still is. Then again, every school I went to, including college, was close to public transportation and didn't have a parking lot.
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Old 01-23-06, 08:53 PM   #8
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It's just sad how so many "communities" do their urban planning. Urban planning for cars, not people.

I walked to school even in kindergarden. Alone even in kindergarden.
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Old 01-23-06, 08:58 PM   #9
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If my kids hadn't been able to walk or bike to school I would have moved. Most of these horror-story schools/neighborhoods are not the kind of place I would tolerate.
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Old 01-23-06, 09:23 PM   #10
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Schools should be an integral part of the local neighborhood's public landscape, along with the barber shop, coffeehouse and bakery.
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Old 01-23-06, 09:40 PM   #11
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The high school I attend is 13 miles away, via highway. In VA, it's not only dangerious but illegal to bike on highways. Cutting through back roads (but still having sections of 4-lane roads) it is 16 miles. None of these back roads have ample shoulders or sidewalks, much less bike lanes.

Also, school starts before sunrise most days in the fall and winter. It certainly isn't an ideal enviornment for most kids to be walking or biking to school.
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Old 01-23-06, 10:12 PM   #12
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The best school I ever went to had a campus of 1 block by a half a block. It was in former hotel. I rode my bike about a mile to get to it. Extra curricular sports were compulsory. Class size was about 28 people per grade. At that size you knew how well everyone did and things were very competitive.
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Old 01-23-06, 10:26 PM   #13
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In VA, it's not only dangerious but illegal to bike on highways.
You sure about that? I think all but a few are actually open to cyclists. Here's what the VDOT website says (http://virginiadot.org/infoservice/bk-laws.asp):

"Bicyclists are not permitted to ride on Interstate and certain other controlled access highways. The restricted sections of the highways are marked with conspicuous signs."
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Old 01-23-06, 10:53 PM   #14
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I'd say that when I was in school, I could and did sometimes walk 2-3 miles to Jr. or Sr. High, but then I'd sound like an old fogey.
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Old 01-23-06, 10:54 PM   #15
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When I was in middle school (I'm just finishing my undergrad this year) I biked about 3 miles to school every day. I raced the bus because it had to stop for everyone I usually won. I didn't realize that I've always been bike commuting I just didn't know that's what it was called when I was a kid. I guess it stuck cause I still bike to college now. Does anyone think that we should be imprinting the kids with healthy habits instead of scaring them $hitless of some exercise?
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Old 01-23-06, 10:54 PM   #16
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I feel lucky. Both my elementary school and high school were in my local neighborhood. We didnt even have bus service as an option. I got to walk or bike for both schools.

*sigh*

Not only was it a nice way to stay in shape (not that I thought of that back then) it was a wonderful way to make friends on your way to and from school.

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Old 01-23-06, 11:02 PM   #17
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You sure about that? I think all but a few are actually open to cyclists. Here's what the VDOT website says (http://virginiadot.org/infoservice/bk-laws.asp):

"Bicyclists are not permitted to ride on Interstate and certain other controlled access highways. The restricted sections of the highways are marked with conspicuous signs."

Is there a lawyer in the house? My understanding is that everyone has a common law right to the use of public rights-of-way. If a restricted road is the only way to get from point a to point b, that restriction is not enforceable.
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Old 01-23-06, 11:03 PM   #18
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a lot of my friends went to that school. it really is in a terrible location for anything but cars. The school lies at the corner of US RT 4 and the RT 4 By-Pass which was recently expanded. That whole area is the definition of urban sprawl. I've ridden my bike on RT 4 before, but not in that area. I refuse to ride there because the road is basically a 6 lane interstate right there. The by-pass isn't much better. 4 lanes of traffic going about 65-70 in a 55 zone (even by the school because it is so far away from the road) consisting of soccer moms in minivans and SUVs on the cellphone, yelling at kids, not paying attention to the road. The by-pass itself is elevated so that if you had to bail, you'd probably hurt yourself doing so.

This isn't a problem of "No Bikes Allowed" it's a problem of poor municipal planning and very poor financial planning on the part of Fairfield school. There have been VERY heated arguments over levys the past few years. The school administration wants to give themselves a raise all the time, and yet complains about lack of funds for the school, so every election they put a new levy (usually around 2 mil) on the ballot, but they always seem to fail. So this time they called the bluff and cut bus service. I think they also turn down the heat in the building so the students have to wear coats all the time and they only turn on half the lights. They don't really save that much money doing that, but it causes such an inconvienence that they hope the students will complain to their parents and that the parents will be upset that they have to take the kids to school all the time that the next levy will pass.
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Old 01-24-06, 12:48 PM   #19
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The new high school in Traverse City was built way out in the country--no busses, every student must drive or ride in a car. the problem is compounded by after school activities. Parents must shuttle kids all over the place because there's no place for activities in local neighborhoods.

If this is happening in your town, do something about it! Try to get downtown businesses involved in a plan to build high schools in the center of cities. Many kids today have a lot of spending money. They could be shopping and eating downtown on their lunch hour or after school, rather than at the mall on weekends--another car trip.
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Old 01-24-06, 03:49 PM   #20
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I am the only one to walk or bike to my school of almost 2000 people. The only one.
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Old 01-24-06, 05:24 PM   #21
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I am the only one to walk or bike to my school of almost 2000 people. The only one.
You're my hero of the week. You're brave enough not to run with the pack now, when you're young. So someday you'll probably be the leader of the pack.
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Old 01-24-06, 05:38 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by DCCommuter
You sure about that? I think all but a few are actually open to cyclists. Here's what the VDOT website says (http://virginiadot.org/infoservice/bk-laws.asp):

"Bicyclists are not permitted to ride on Interstate and certain other controlled access highways. The restricted sections of the highways are marked with conspicuous signs."
Ah, I shouldn't have said highway, that's inaccurate. Cyclists are not permitted on interstates or most state routes (every entrance ramp I've seen has a sign declaring "No pedestians, bicycles, mopeds" etc).
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Old 01-24-06, 07:02 PM   #23
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I am the only one to walk or bike to my school of almost 2000 people. The only one.
your high school is HUGE for only having 2000 people in the town! (Well at least your football stadium is anyway)
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Old 01-24-06, 09:08 PM   #24
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"Cyclists are not permitted on interstates or most state routes "

Don't think I've ever seen a state route I'm not permitted on. The only prohibitions in the RVA area are the interstates and several of the James river bridges.

On the other hand, where are you living and going to school? A commute that distance would practically put me in Ashland; I live near the diamond. If you're in the metro area, unless you're going to a private school, one of the magnet schools in Henrico, or one of the Governor's schools, I find those distances hard to comprehend for going to school. I've got literally a dozen High schools, maybe more, within a ten mile radius of my house.
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Old 01-24-06, 09:26 PM   #25
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I walked to school even in kindergarden. Alone even in kindergarden.
ditto! my elementary school was only about .3-.4 miles, but at 3:30 on a dark winter michigan day, climbing over a snowback plowed 12 feet high in a church parking lot, it seemed like a trek across siberia.

and guess what, i turned out fine.

and we had some school "safetys" at a nearby intersection, and a crossing guard, and my mom had no trouble with me at 7-8 years old walking to school thru the neighborhood, field and church lot!

flash forward 25 years, and i'm recanting the above to a lady at work who was bragging she "made" her kids walk to school today, as it was 60 degrees out. (i work out with this lady at my gym around 3:30, and for some reason she's ALWAYS on the phone with her kids, and i wonder what on earth is so compelling that it can't wait til 6pm)

another topic of discussion are how kids/teens/ even COLLEGE age kids are way too attached to mommy/daddy via their phone, at times (school, walking home, dorms) when they should be figuring things out themselves, and learning independence, whether it be kindergarten independence, or college

i read an article on that a while back and shuddered
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