New Research on Joint Use Policies

Bridging the Gap, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded research program dedicated to improving the health and wellness of America’s youth, recently released a research brief with updated statistics on joint use policies in American schools. The 2009-10 document examines the characteristics of joint use agreements among 157 national public school districts.

Interestingly, 93% of the public school districts selected for the study had already included joint use agreements in their plans, although many of these arrangements discuss such multi-use projects in rather vague terms. Many agreements did not clearly identify who was eligible to use the school facilities, what times they were allowed to do so, which specific facilities were available for use, or who was liable for property damage or repair responsibilities.

The research brief encourages school districts and local policymakers to review their existing joint use agreements, revise them to address specific issues and needs of today, and promote the agreements to ensure that community members have convenient access to school facilities when otherwise not in use.

All joint use agreements should:

  • Clearly identify which facilities may be used for recreational purposes.
  • Clearly define who may use the facilities and when these facilities are available.
  • Specify any liability and repair responsibilities for these users.

By ensuring that their joint use agreements are comprehensive, clearly defined, and properly written, communities can share the costs needed to upkeep schools and can better protect these schools against liability issues.

In collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Active Living Research produced a similar document in April 2012 with updated findings on shared use agreements coming to the conclusion that providing families access to convenient and safe places to be physically active promotes health and wellness, especially in low-income communities and communities of color.

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