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Schools By Design Final Report and Memorandum of Understanding

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"Schools By Design"

California Department of Transportation - District 8
Coachella Valley Association of Governments
UCR Center for Sustainable Suburban Development


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What is the "Schools By Design" Project?

This Project was formed from a concern that there is no adequate planning for the location of schools where children may be safe from the dangers of the traffic grid, and enjoy the exercise and camaraderie of traveling to class.

The classic planning models called for schools to be located within the street grid and placed on a per-capita basis. Now, school districts place campuses where land is available (particularly in developed areas) and have little oversight on where schools are built.

Kids walking to school

This project seeks to establish a broader set of partnerships that can be utilized statewide regarding the safe location of schools. This project has three distinct phases.

During the first phase, research will be conducted regarding school site location, and analysis of traffic patterns and land-use site location planning issues will be conducted.

Relationships will be established with the Coachella Valley, Desert Sands, and Palm Springs School Districts. Also, a local oversight committee will be established with occasional meetings.

During the second phase, the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development (CSSD) and the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) staff will work with the schools to develop survey data with the aim of understanding the barriers for "walkable" schools in desert area communities.

The third phase of this project will consist of working with cities and school districts in the Coachella Valley to develop a uniform Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with schools that will focus efforts on site location standards and the importance of adhering to traffic safety techniques in school site location.


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Methodology - How Do We Establish A Strategy?

SURVEY DATA – Schools by Design will implement both a Parent Survey and a Student Survey that will ascertain local attitudes towards problems and solutions to creating "walkable" schools. These Surveys utilize area schools to disseminate a paper survey that asked a short series of questions related to preferences for student travel and modes of transit. Both of these surveys will enhance knowledge and Project participation by providing information that can be used by schools and the community in creating grants and partnerships to produce "walkable" schools.

COMMUNITY MEETINGS – Utilizing the traffic and survey data, a series of community meetings will be held with support from CVAG and UCR that will link school design and school placement with community concerns. Several important questions will be asked. Can schools be located in areas with existing street and infrastructure that can accommodate safe trips to school, or do stronger partnerships for cost sharing need to be in place between cities and schools to insure student pedestrian safety through street improvements (e.g., improved sidewalks, street crossings, street signals, traffic calming, visible signage)? Can schools themselves be redesigned to restrict and improve pedestrian safety along more protected access routes? Can a community partnership be formed to insure that children have safe havens when they feel threatened on the way to school, or that speeding along "walkable" routes is actively reported to authorities?

Kids walking to school photo

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU). One deliverable is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between schools and cities that can be replicated nationwide. The collaborative process is expected to produce a number of collaborative and safety recommendations that will form the backbone of the MOU to produce partnerships for safe routes to school. Specific attention will be given to collaborative problems pertaining to where schools will work with regional planning bodies to locate schools where the traffic grid will be amenable to the safety of children. MOU recommendations will be specific to the desert communities of Riverside, but will also create a format that can be duplicated by other jurisdictions. The MOU may cover diverse areas such as traffic, crime, school design, parental and municipal involvement, and other issues that create "walkable (and safe) schools". The Project MOU will be presented as a national model to tout what has been learned, and to add to a knowledge base of "safe routes to schools" nationwide.


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What are the Outcomes for the Project?

The ability of students to access school on foot has benefits both for the community and the student. Schools are community assets, and the interaction of schools and communities can merge neighborhood and educational assets to solve problems and create a positive nexus for neighborhood life. Students get much needed exercise by walking to school, plus the additional time to associate with peer groups. Safe paths of travel must merge infrastructure concerns, design, traffic patterns, "eyes on the street" and a united community effort including schools, regional planning agencies, and municipalities, to create safe corridors of travel.