NCEF Resource List: Site Selection for Schools
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Information on school siting, environmental issues, and state selection criteria, compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

References to Books and Other Media

Efficient Use of School Space [Portland Public Schools] Adobe PDF
(Long Range Facilities Planning, Portland Public Schools, Issue Paper 5.1, Mar 20, 2012)
Discusses a variety of ways in which the Portland District makes efficient use of its school sites including use of modular classrooms, building multi-story schools, sharing use of school sites for both District and other public/community agencies, locating schools on smaller sites, alternative parking arrangements and use of swing sites. 6p

Review of the Illinois Facility Fund's Analysis of School Location and Performance in Washington, D.C. Adobe PDF
Siegel, Michael; Filardo, Mary
(21st Century School Fund, Washington, D.C. , Feb 09, 2012)
On January 25th, 2012 the District of Columbia Deputy Mayor for Education released "Quality Schools, Every Child, Every School, Every Neighborhood" a report that purports to identify "service gap" between the supply of and demand for "performing seats" in both DC Public Schools and public charter schools. The authors completed a review of the Illinois Facility Fund's analysis. This study addresses its flawed methodology, analyses and recommendations. 12p

Quality Schools: Every Child, Every School, Every Neighborhood. An Analysis of School Location and Performance in Washington, D.C. Adobe PDF
(Illinois Facility Fund, Jan 2012)
Study recommends that Washington, D.C., overhaul or close more than three dozen traditional public schools in its poorest neighborhoods and expand the number of high-performing charter schools. After explaining the research methodology, the study provides a district-wide analysis, with findings and recommendations. Includes maps and tables. 80p

Proximity of Public Elementary Schools to Major Roads in Canadian Urban Areas
Amram, Ofer; Abernethy, Rebecca; Brauer, Michael; Davies, Hugh; and Allen, Ryan W
(International Journal of Health Geographics , Dec 21, 2011)
Epidemiologic studies have linked exposure to traffic-generated air and noise pollution with a wide range of adverse health effects in children. Children spend a large portion of time at school, and both air pollution and noise are elevated in close proximity to roads, so school location may be an important determinant of exposure. No studies have yet examined the proximity of schools to major roads outside of the US. Data on public elementary schools in Canada's 10 most populous cities were obtained from online databases. School addresses were geocoded and proximity to the nearest major road, defined using a standardized national road classification scheme, was calculated for each school. Based on measurements of nitrogen oxide concentrations, ultrafine particle counts, and noise levels in three Canadian cities we conservatively defined distances <75 m from major roads as the zone of primary interest. Census data at the city and neighborhood levels were used to evaluate relationships between school proximity to major roads, urban density, and indicators of socioeconomic status. Conclusions: asubstantial fraction of students at public elementary schools in Canada, particularly students attending schools in low income neighborhoods, may be exposed to elevated levels of air pollution and noise while at school. As a result, the locations of schools may negatively impact the healthy development and academic performance of a large number of Canadian children. [Authors' abstract]

Policy Package: Model School Siting Policies for Illinois School Districts Adobe PDF
(Public Health Law & Policy, Dec 09, 2011)
Package of school siting policies for school districts that want to ensure that their school siting decisions support the educational success, physical health, and overall well-being of students and their community. Covers school siting policy; long term coordinated planning; school siting determinations; site design; and attendance zones and assignment policies. 25p

School Siting and Healthy Communities: Why Where We Invest in School Facilities Matters
Miles, Rebecca; Adelaja, Adesoji; Wyckoff, Mark
(Michigan State University Press, Dec 2011)
In recent decades, many metropolitan areas in the United States have experienced a decline in the population of urban centers and rapid growth in the suburbs, with new schools being built outside of cities and existing urban schools facing closure. These new schools are increasingly larger and farther from residences; in contrast, urban school facilities are often in closer proximity to homes but are also in dire need of upgrading or modernization. This book explores the compelling health and economic rationales for new approaches to school siting, including economic savings to school districts, transportation infrastructure needs, and improved child health. An essential examination of public policy issues associated with school siting, this compiled volume will assist policy makers and help the public understand why it is important for government and school districts to work together on school siting and capital expenditures and how these new outlooks will improve local and regional outcomes. [Authors' abstract]

School Siting Guidelines.
(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oct 02, 2011)
Voluntary school siting guidelines can help local school districts and community members evaluate environmental factors to make the best possible school siting decisions. Includes overview, environmental siting criteria considerations, environmental review process, evaluating impacts of nearby sources of air pollution, quick guide for environmnetal issues, and frequent questions.

New Schools for Downtown Nashville Adobe PDF
(Nashville Civic Design Center, Nashville, Tennessee, Jul 2011)
Advocates for the building of new schools in downtown Nashville, Tennessee for a dramatic positive affect on the growth and new development in the urban core of the city. Details universal reasons to invest in downtown schools as well as the benefits to Nashville. Provides extensive case studies from Memphis and Chattanooga, highlighting lessons learned, as well highlighting projects in San Diego, Chicago, and St. Louis. Outlines specific locations for the new schools, with plans and photographs. 17p

Public Schools: A Toolkit for REALTORS®
(National Association of Realtors, Jun 2011)
Toolkit to help realtors enhance their knowledge and understanding of the public school system so they can become involved in improving their schools and communities. A section on Issues in Public Education includes the following topics: the benefits of green schools; walkability and safe routes to school; school building and siting; teachers living where they work; and how schools are funded. Section two shares examples of realtors and realtor associations around the country that are playing an active role in engaging local students and improving local schools by serving on school boards, volunteering at local schools, donating their time to community-wide efforts to improve schools, and advocating for local school-related initiatives.

The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools.
(USA Today , Jun 2011)
This special report website includes articles and videos on air pollution at America's school sites. An overlay of school site and Environmental Protection Agency air pollution data provides a tool for finding a school and its air quality standing. A map illustrates clusters of schools where toxic air is the highest.

Recommendations for Acreage of School Facilities. [Idaho] Adobe PDF
(Idaho State Department of Education, 2011)
Recommended acreages are guidelines meant to assist school districts in planning. They do not have regulatory force. 1p.

Ten Fundamental Principles of Smart School Siting. Adobe PDF
(Public Health Law & Policy, 2011)
Principles include: collaborative planning, long-term data driven planning, account for all costs, co-location and shared costs, preference for renovation, diverse walkable schools, equity in facilities, health impacts, safe routes to school, safe infrastructure for walking, bicycling, and public transportation. 1p

Planning School Grounds for Outdoor Learning. Adobe PDF
Wagner, Cheryl; Gordon, Douglas
(National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, Washington, DC , Oct 2010)
Discusses the planning and design of school grounds for outdoor learning in new and existing K-12 facilities. A general discussion of the educational potential and history of outdoor learning spaces is followed by detail on the different types of outdoor learning environments that can be considered, the value of flexible spaces for outdoor learning, and resources for those interested in outdoor learning environments. Also explored are environmental education s physical impact on school grounds, considerations during school site development when outdoor education is to be included, and existing school site redesign for outdoor education. 35 resources and citations are included. 7p.

The Active School Neighborhood Checklist. Adobe PDF
(Arizona Department of Transportation, Phoenix , Jul 16, 2010)
Provides decision makers with a quantitative tool for evaluating the potential long-term health impacts of candidate school sites on the children who will attend them. The logic of ASNC is based on existing research that the built environment can have an effect on either encouraging or preventing people of all ages from walking and bicycling safely to various destinations. 31p.

Putting Schools on the Map: Linking Transit-Oriented Development, San Francisco Bay Area Families, and Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Adobe PDF
(University of California, Center for Cities and Schools, Berkeley , Jun 2010)
Examines the connections between transit-oriented development (TOD), families, and schools, with a focus on expanding educational opportunities for all children. Taking an exploratory approach to understanding and framing these interconnections, the document provides a rationale for the linkages at this nexus, presents "Ten Core Connections" between TOD and public education, and highlight five case studies in the San Francisco Bay Area. From these, recommendations are provided for enhancing city-school collaboration in TOD for improved transit use and high quality educational opportunities. 80p.

The School Site Planner. Adobe PDF
(North Carolina Dept. of Public Instruction, Raleigh , Feb 2010)
Addresses many factors that need consideration during the process of school site selection, planning, development, and use. The guide examines not only the site selection and planning processes, but also playground planning, recreation and athletic fields planning. Specific considerations include analyses of the surrounding community or territory; building access and security; the surrounding natural environment and available support services; landscaping, utilities, and vehicular traffic; and playground equipment and safety. Final sections provide athletic field layouts for track and field events; football, soccer, and baseball fields; and basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts. Fourteen references are included. 67p.

Safe Routes to School Travel Data: A Look a Baseline Results from Parent Surveys and Student Travel Tallies.
Brown, Austin; LaJeunesse, Seth
(U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC , Jan 2010)
Provides a summary of school travel data local Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs throughout the United States collected from April 2007 to May 2009. These data were gathered using a parent self-report questionnaire and an in-class show-of-hand student travel count form. Key findings include: 1) Distance to school is strongly associated with how children get to and from school. The proportion of ––children walking or bicycling to school is much greater among those who live closer to school. 2) Across all grades, the family car and school bus were the two most frequently used options for travel to and from school. Walking was a distant third. However, there are notable differences between how students in lower grades (K-5th) and higher grades (6th-8th) travel to school. 3) More students arrive at school in the family car than leave by car in the afternoon. The majority of those afternoon trips shifted to riding the school bus or walking. 4) Safety factors, like traffic speed and volume and street crossing safety, were frequently selected as ––barriers by parents who live within one half mile of school but do not allow their children to walk or bicycle to/from school. 5) Weather was only marginally related to students’ morning travel mode. 25p.

Helping Johnny Walk to School. Adobe PDF
Kuhlman, Renee
(National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, DC , Jan 2010)
Advocates the siting of schools to achieve educational, public health, and sustainability objectives. A community-centered school helps anchor the surrounding neighborhood, is centrally-located to a majority of students, and uses existing infrastructure whenever possible. The report identifies the larger community interest in decisions about retaining existing schools and deciding where to locate new ones. It describes the states' role in school siting decisions and identifies state level policy changes that will ensure that educational, environmental, health, community, and fiscal considerations are weighed by communities when school districts make school closing, consolidation, and site selection decisions. 44p.

References to Journal Articles

Sustainability in Action
Oppelt, Mark
School Planning and Management; , p50-56 ; Apr 2012
Case study of the water selection, siting, and energy costs factored into the design of Samuel V. Champion High School in the Boern ISD in Texas.

The Rise of Downtown Campuses
D'Andrea, Claudio
University Affairs; Feb 06, 2012
Describes several Canadian colleges and universities that have built downtown campuses as solutions to the problem of decaying downtowns in smaller Canadian cities. Universities, in turn, are reaping community goodwill – as well as badly needed expansion space.

Systemic Approach to Building 21st Century Schools: Experiences in the Aloha State Adobe PDF
Bingler, Steven N,; Kaneko, William M.; Oshima, Alan M.
Educational Facility Planner; v45 n4 , p35-37 ; Dec 2011
Recognizing that public funds are severely limited, in 2009, the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs (HIPA) initiated a research- and community-based effort to develop an innovative, systemic and practicable approach to school facilities upgrades, management and development. The essence of this approach is to leverage underutilized or vacant public school lands that are consistent with the educational and community needs of the school, teachers and its students. Joint-use, lease-backs, land swaps and other use of public school lands provide unique opportunities to maximize the value of public school lands.

A Safe Environment
Pratachandran, Sarat
School Planning and Management; Dec 2011
Discusses the EPA's first-ever federal guidelines for locating school facilities that encourage high-performance schools, stress the importance of locating schools near populations and infrastructure and promote schools as diverse centers of communities. They urge communities to consider children's ability to walk to school, access to public transportation and how to locate schools away from potential environmental hazards.

The Sustainability & Innovation Awards. Green Designs in Educational Facilities.
College Planning and Management; , p44-55 ; Nov 2011
Describes the winners of the 2011 awards program for green schools, colleges, and universities, recognizing innovation and best practices. Awards categories are: Building as a Teaching Tool; Energy Efficiency and Conservation; and Site Selection and Development. [See detailed information about each project at Education Design Showcase.]

Air Pollution Around Schools Is Linked To Poorer Student Health And Academic Performance.
Mohai, Paul; Byoung-Suk Kweon; Lee, Sangyun; Ard, Kerry
Health Affairs; v30 n5 ; May 2011
Exposing children to environmental pollutants during important times of physiological development can lead to long-lasting health problems, dysfunction, and disease. The location of children’s schools can increase their exposure. We examined the extent of air pollution from industrial sources around public schools in Michigan to find out whether air pollution jeopardizes children’s health and academic success. We found that schools located in areas with the highest air pollution levels had the lowest attendance rates—a potential indicator of poor health—and the highest proportions of students who failed to meet state educational testing standards. Michigan and many other states currently do not require officials considering a site for a new school to analyze its environmental quality. Our results show that such requirements are needed. For schools already in existence, we recommend that their environmental quality should be investigated and improved if necessary. [Authors' abstract]

Safe Sites for Green Schools.
Kennedy, Mike
American School and University; Apr 2011
Discusses proposed EPA guidelines will help school systems decide where safe, healthful, sustainable facilities should be built.

School Travel Mode Choice and Characteristics of the Children, School and Neighborhood
Spinney, Jamie; Millward, Hugh
Children, Youth and Environments; v21 n2 , p57-76 ; Winter 2011
The journey between home and school presents one of the most widespread opportunities for children to engage in regular physical activity, yet this opportunity is apparently being squandered. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether travel mode choices for children’s journey between home and school are associated with characteristics of the children, the schools, and the neighborhoods in which the schools are sited. Travel mode choices were collected from children aged 5 to 15 in Halifax, Canada, and joined with information about their schools and their school’s neighborhood. Pearson’s chi-square was used to highlight major differences from expected values and examine the associations with each mode choice (bus, car, or walking). Results suggest that, for the sake of communities and children’s health, the siting of new schools should consider the negative implications of chauffeuring students, and should strive to encourage active forms of transportation. [Authors' abstract]

Site Headaches Can Be a Gift for Students.
Way, Nancy
Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce; Jul 22, 2010
Discusses the inclusion of wetlands on school sites as a resource for outdoor learning environments, rather than as an obstacle that needs to be remediated.

Selecting Safe School Sites.
Robertson, Sue
School Planning and Management; v49 n6 , p20,22-25 ; Jun 2010
Advises on school site selection, detailing issues of land characteristics and accessibility. Distance from environmental hazards, traffic management, and the ability for students to walk there safely are detailed.

Utah Lab Project Requires Persistent Site Analysis.
Taft, Kyle
Laboratory Design; v15 n5 , p1,5,6 ; Jun 2010
Describes the challenge of building a new laboratory at Utah Valley University. The lab had to be constructed along an existing campus concourse that connects major campus buildings and whose transparency reveals desirable panoramic views of nearby mountains and water features. The solution was a smaller building than originally sought that preserved the amenities, but required relocation of utilities.

A Small Footprint.
School Planning and Management; v49 n4 , p58,60,62 ; Apr 2010
Profiles this prototype school that was built on an infill site by virtue of its small footprint and its proximity to public facilities. The site selection, community participation, building design, "green" features, and use of the building as a teaching tool are described.

School Siting: Contested Visions of the Community School.
Journal of the American Planning Association; v76 n2 , p1-15 ; Apr 2010
Traces the evolution of school siting standards, explains factors currently influencing school facility location decisions, and identifies what local and regional planners could contribute to school siting decisions. The author's research discovered that different groups use very different definitions of community school. Smart growth proponents advocate community schools that are small and intimately linked to neighborhoods, while school facility planners expect community schools to meet the needs of entire localities. She recommends that individual communities consider the tradeoffs associated with different school sizes and make choices that meet local preferences for locations within walking distance of students, potential for sports fields, school design, and connections to neighborhoods. State school construction and siting policies should support flexibility for localities.

Achieving Healthy School Siting and Planning Policies: Understanding Shared Concerns of Environmental Planners, Public Health Professionals, and Educators.
Cohen, Alison
New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy ; v20 n1 , 49-72 ; 2010
Discusses policy decisions regarding the quality of the physical school environment--both, school siting and school facility planning policies. These are often considered through the lens of environmental planning, public health, or education policy, but rarely through all three. Environmental planners consider environmental justice issues on a local level and/or consider the regional impact of a school. Public health professionals focus on toxic exposures and populations particularly vulnerable to negative health outcomes. Educators and education policymakers emphasize investing in human capital of both students and staff. By understanding these respective angles and combining these efforts around the common goals of achieving adequacy and excellence, communities can work toward a regulatory system for school facilities that recognizes children as a uniquely vulnerable population and seeks to create healthier school environments in which children can learn and adults can work.[author's abstract]



Due to lack of funding, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities is currently available only as an archived site. As of September 1, 2012 no new content will be added or updates made. We regret the need to take such steps, but should funding become available, we look forward to reinvigorating NCEF and providing this valuable resource to the educational facilities community.

If you have questions or are an organization or company wishing to support the continued operation of this industry recognized resource please contact Institute President Henry Green (, 202-289-7800).