Friday, December 28, 2007

Walking to School...

...Daily Sprawl regularly posts about the important issue of making new schools as "walkable" as possible. Meaning that, new schools should be placed in locations where many of the students can safely and legally walk to the school.

The benefits of small "walkable" schools are numerous: higher test scores, better health, lower dropout rates and many more.

Unfortunately, many school districts and states have ignored these results and continue to build schools in unwalkable locations. The argument for this is that the land is often cheaper there. Which, if you are considering just the land cost is probably true.

But, what about getting the students to that school located on cheaper land? Or, worse still, what if you build schools that--as the crow flies--are within walking distance but there is not a safe way to actually get there?

This story explains how the increase in energy costs is poking major holes in the logic of building schools that are essentially unwalkable to most, if not all, students:
chool-district officials say they simply are trying to enforce state
standards on who is entitled to ride school buses and who is not. The
state reimburses school districts about $400 for every student who lives
two miles or more from school.

"The only decision we can make is whether the kids are eligible or not
for bus transportation," said Ken Lewis, director of bus services for
Seminole schools.

But if a district argues that walking or biking to school is dangerous
because of traffic or some other hazard, the state might reimburse for
those kids, too.

Seminole has been more aggressive than other counties in pursuing such
exceptions -- including traffic-clogged Orange County. The state is
subsidizing bus rides for about 1,400 students who would not otherwise
be eligible because they live too close to school, compared with fewer
than 1,000 in Orange, according to state data for the 2005-06 school
year, the latest available.