Action alert: Support siting schools at the centers of communities

Group walkingSupport improvements to school siting requirements that will encourage community-centered schools – send a letter of support for SB 1067 today!

The evaluation and selection of sites for new school facilities can have a critical impact on communities and on the safety and health of students. Community-centered schools enable students to safely walk or bicycle to school and often serve as a resource to all residents in the community, including students, as valuable shared open space and facilities for recreation and other activities. In contrast, siting new schools (often closing or consolidating older schools) beyond the boundaries of existing neighborhoods requires students to travel longer distances to school, increases traffic congestion and safety risks near schools, as well as erodes the fabric of neighborhoods by inducing sprawl development and driving down home values.

Senate Bill 1067 is an important first step toward a solution to this complicated issue. The California Department of Education (CDE) currently has a process to evaluate school sites for safety issues before the site is acquired by the school district to build a new school facility. The evaluation process focuses mostly on proximity to sources of hazardous materials or noise such as airports or toxic waste facilities, rather than on proximity to homes and accessibility via safe routes to school. All schools that are built with state funds are required to go through the CDE site selection review process.  However, charter schools are exempt.

SB 1067 will require all potential public school sites, including for charter school facilities, to be evaluated by the CDE process, and requires substantial improvements to how sites are evaluated, including:

  • School sites must have 2 access points for entry/exit that are safely accessible for students walking or bicycling to school
  • CDE must evaluate and make recommendations on the proximity of the site to residential areas, access for students to walk or bike to the site, the potential for shared use of the school facilities for other community activities, and conformity with the city or county’s general plan land use and mobility elements
  • Finally, CDE must keep the site selection guidelines current by reviewing and updating them at least every 10 years

This important piece of legislation needs your organization’s support! The bill will be heard in Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, Apr 30 – send a letter of support to the Committee today.  Use our template letter of support for easy drafting, and email it to jeanie@saferoutespartnership.org for help distributing it to the committee members.

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