Children's Health Protection
OCHP Webinar - Children's Health Month 2011
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Barbara Worth: Good afternoon and welcome. I’m Barbara Worth with the Council of Educational Facility Planners. And I want to thank you all for joining us for today’s webinar, Advancing Environmental Justice and Preservation through School Sightings.
CEFPI is a nonprofit association whose sole mission is improving the places where children learn.
CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals actively involved in the various phases of school planning and design with one single goal, building healthy, green and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality.
Today’s webinar which is being recorded is the third in the expanding the School Siting Conversation Series developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Today’s session addresses the many challenges that local education authorities, facility planners and communities face as they try to balance environment, health, preservation, cultural and fiscal implications of their school siting decisions in a very challenging economic environment.
It will also provide an introduction to the first ever federal guidelines for local school facilities and emphasize the importance of considering rehabilitation from the outset of school siting decisions.
Now it is my pleasure to introduce our outstanding lineup of speakers for today’s session.
Sean O’Donnell, Perkins Eastman, Myrick Howard, President of Preservation North Carolina, Makia Burns from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Matt Dalbey, the Office of Sustainable Communities US EPA and Suzy Ruhl, the Office of Environmental Justice US EPA.
As your lines will be muted please post your questions and comments during the presentation for discussion at the end of the call using the Q&A box at the top - left of your screen where it says Q&A. If you click on that you can submit your questions.
And please direct your questions to particular individuals and also include your name and firm.
And now it’s my pleasure to introduce our first speaker, Sean O’Donnell.
Sean O’Donnell: Thanks Barbara. When we start to think about siting preservation environmental justice I think in many ways what we’re talking about is creating sustainable 21st Centuries learning environments and learning environments that are center of their community.
So when we start to look back at the history of some of our school siting what we find is facilities like this. This is Handley High School in West Chester, Virginia, facilities that are integrated tightly with their community that are walkable that became park-like settings in many ways that are available for many modes of transport and to everybody in that context, you know, whether they’re young, whether they’re old and also buildings that became great civic architecture, meaningful in many ways physically and metaphorically to the community.
As we came to the midcentury of the 20th Century the car arrived, modernism developed and many of the sites started to look like this in contrast where, you know, they’re largely auto accessible however much more removed from the community even though there are other resources such as larger sites available here.
So when we start to consider the history of our architecture and the existing building stock that we have, there are many challenges to using those first sites and the existing buildings that I’ve listed here many of them touching upon ideas of environmental justice and creating a great learning environment for the 21st Century but also advocating perhaps for a different kind of site.
But in contrast when we look at some of the societal issues and even operational issues and budgetary issues that are confronting schools today there may be factors that start to suggest that more community integrated site that historic building presents a greater opportunity to create a 21st Century school.
What I’d like to do is just quickly share two examples of how that might work on a smaller site, sites that include historic buildings such as the 1932 building that you see on the left here.
This is Stoddard Elementary School and Community Center in Washington, DC and again, starting to think about how people arrive.
You see people walking to school, taking bikes. It’s not an auto-centered environment. But also thinking about how the building relates to that site.
That building that you saw on the left is the yellow block on the upper drawing on the left. It was a master plan that was never fully realized. So this project that you’re seeing is the full implementation realization of that 1932 ambition to create a community center for this neighborhood and also create a great school.
This is a classroom within a 1932 building. And in the background you see the new wing that was put on, part of a 48,000 square feet addition. However there’s no distinction between classrooms in either building. They’re all about great acoustics, you know, full complement of technology, flexibility. And it’s all predicated on the natural light and the tall ceilings that were manifest in the historic architecture of that building creating great outdoor places as well where the community can engage the school and the landscape too.
Again, this is a community center. So the building is organized so that the community can come in after hours on weekends and use the facility. But it’s also controllable. And security is easy to manage as well so that the school off to the left can be closed down so after-hours it doesn’t become an issue for maintenance staff as well.
And starting to think about some of the resources that were provided too again this is not an elementary school gym. This is a middle school standard gym, someplace that an adult can play and feel comfortable and invited into the facility.
Another example of a historic building that is succeeding as a 21st Century learning environment again is the School without Walls here. And there’s a link to a video if you want to see what this building looked like before. But it was literally falling down around the school.
But tightly integrated into the urban grid and the adjacent university, so this idea of joint use going outward and using the resources of the university using an addition to do the things that the historic building can’t do like an accessible entry, art rooms, large spaces, small spaces, elevators but yet still bringing in all the natural light and creating all the ambience that creates a great learning environment in the 21st Century including the renewed 19th-century classroom that you see here, again all predicated on natural light, great acoustics, access to technology.
And again, the university is also teaching in these spaces so no compromises are made in terms of the quality and the educational environment and in contrast to the photo that you see in the upper left which is what the building looked like prior to the renovation.
With that I’m going to turn it over to Myrick Howard.
Myrick Howard: Thank you. In Preservation North Carolina we describe our organization which is a nonprofit as an animal shelter. We’re dealing with the poor dogs that nobody else wants to deal with.
And in the early to mid-80s we had our first introduction to working with school buildings at -in Edenton, North Carolina. The building had been vacated by the local school system and said it was unsafe for children and it was going to cost x number of dollars to renovate.<.p>
We asked if we could acquire the building, find someone to take it and use it for the uses.
It ended up that it was safe for senior housing although it had been said to be unsafe for children. And it costs considerably less to renovate it for housing than it did to continue its use as a school building.
Over the next number of years we worked with a number of other school buildings across the state where we saw buildings that were vacant 15 or 20 years being renovated economically for new uses. Even after fires we saw these buildings feasibly being reused.
In Gastonia we worked to find a buyer for a school building there and our local charter school wanted to acquire it.
It ended up that the charter school took the building that had been rejected by the public schools, reused it at less than half the cost of what the local school board said it was going to cost to renovate. And oh, by the way it’s now the best performing school in the county.
So we’ve seen some great adaptive uses of school buildings all across the state. They’re wonderful structure. They’re easy to reuse. And we’ve also seen some interesting adaptive uses for schools.
Among the highest performing schools in North Carolina is a textile mill building which has been reused for a school building, a hospital that’s been reused for school. And we have a technical problem here. Thank you.
And as I mentioned this, you know, school building, public school building being used for a charter school.
So we’ve got a student, public administrative Masters student to do an in-depth study of Wake county schools where several buildings have been renovated.
And they compared the cost and school size, et cetera of an old building versus a new building. And this is total renovation, total and complete renovation, you know, in many cases adding elevators, certainly all new HVAC systems, wiring and so forth.
And they found that the - it was - that in the process of looking at it for one thing when the costs were given to the public of what the new school was going to cost the site work and the land acquisition were not counted as cost in building the building even though obviously they - that often adds up to 20% or more of the cost of doing the new school buildings.
So what were the conclusions, renovation’s half the cost of new construction.
Land acquisition and infrastructure from site work costs add 20% to a new school.
If there’s an existing building that has to be demo - demolished that’s another 6% of added cost to the new school.
And transportation costs are likely to be higher for the new school than it is for the historic school.
Now the scope of that study did not address the subject of jobs. And anyone who’s been involved in renovation can tell you historic renovation is energy - is labor-intensive and not material intensive. You’re reusing what’s there and you’re fixing it.
And if you have $100 million of renovation which in the case of schools only eight or ten schools, $100 million of renovation creates at least 550 more jobs than new construction. And that makes sense.
So if we’re looking at jobs, renovation is much more effective as a supplier of jobs.
I will end with a couple of great examples of continued use of schools. And we’re really happy to be at that point here in North Carolina. It took some real advocacy efforts with the first couple but it’s now happening all over the place because communities are very proud of these schools. The surrounding neighborhoods are thrilled and it’s bringing stability into those neighborhoods.
And finally in today’s world I think it’s important to say, “What’s the greenest school building?” It’s the one that’s already there. And with that I’ll turn it over to Makia Burns with the Center of Health Environment and Justice.
Makia Burns: Thank you, Myrick.
Okay good afternoon everyone. My name’s Makia Burns with the Center for Health Environment and Justice. And I’d like to discuss problems decision-makers may encounter and should consider when in the process of building a new school, renovating an existing structure or leasing their space.
But before I get into the unintended consequences of school siting and action steps participants can take I would like ((inaudible)) CHEJ’s history and areas that involve children’s environmental health.
The Center for Health, Environment and Justice or CHEJ has been working with tens of thousands of communities across the country for over 30 years educating and empowering local groups to talk on environmental threats to their communities.
CHEJ offers members training, technical and organizing assistance.
CHEJ was started by Lois Gibbs. Lois Gibbs was raising her family on Love Canal near Niagara Falls in upstate New York when in 1978 she discovered that her home and ((inaudible)) neighbors were sitting next to 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals.
Her children attended 99th Street School that was located near the landfill. She suspected toxic chemicals were the reason her own children were having health problems.
This spurred Lois and her neighbors to create a neighborhood association that demanded local and federal officials to address the health problems their community were dealing with.
In this fight Lois discovered that no local, state or national organization existed to provide communities with strategic advice, guidance, training and technical assistance.
Lois created the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and since Love Canal CHEJ has been working with a coalition of health experts, community groups, legal professionals and engineers to create a model school siting legislation and educational materials to use as the resources for community groups to create and encourage the passage of health-protective school siting laws.
CHEJ’s own sitings director Steve Lester sat on the School Siting Task Group that was convened by the EPA to provide input on the content of the schools siting guidelines before the draft was released in 2010.
CHEJ has been working with communities that are dealing with unintended consequences of placing schools near sources of pollution or contaminated sites.
We know that it can be very difficult for local school districts to weight all factors when contemplating where to place a new school or renovate an existing site.
But it’s important to involve various stakeholders in the decision in order to address concerns that could arise later such as the community fund that a site is located in an isolated area or only caters to a specific population or placed near a school on an old landfill site or down the street from an oil refinery.
Communities would like the ability for their children to walk to school or have the independence to take public transportation. By using sustainability or - and/or smart school series as a single driving factor when choosing a site can yield some unwanted effects.
I would like to state although schools are the only environment we mentioned here, school siting guidelines and policies can be applicable where to place day care centers, public, private charter schools, Boys and Girls Clubs or wherever children may play, learn live or pray.
So decision-makers have to be cognizant of their audience in which the site is intended for and to not place occupants feel isolated from other services or lack of diversity.
There could be various reasons why schools could end up on contaminated land such as lack of adequate funding. Contaminated land may sound like a sweet deal in the beginning, but the cost to remediate and cleanup site can cost millions of extra dollars.
In urban areas such as New York City which has a rich history of industrial practices limited amount of space that is not contaminated so options are very limited.
Currently in New York City public schools they are dealing with an issue of PCBs and old fluorescent lights and caulking.
They have found over 700 schools and classrooms that need to be retrofitted with new lighting and caulking removed.
PCBs are a - is a probable human carcinogen that was banned in 1978 but could be still present especially in buildings that were built prior to 1978.
Of course parents and advocates have demanded actions as soon as possible. But so far the city has senior - has a ten year timeframe to address all issues.
Another problem is schools located near sources of pollution. Big school complexes may also sit next to major highways. Studies have also shown that children’s health and academic performance can be harmed when located near heavy traffic.
Kids as well as staff become sick and absenteeism rate will go up. Studies that also show that rates with asthma among minority children are increasing due to minority children and children of low wealth located in areas with high air pollution.
An example of this has occurred recently in Texas. This is a picture of the Magnablend Company that had a chemical fire a couple of weeks ago.
Magnablend produces products used by various industries, primarily agriculture, oil and gas and water treatment. So you can see the blaze, the fire here. It took almost a day to extinguish the fire. And you could see the - there’s the school near it and there’s the smoke in the background. And you can see the problems that it caused and the scare that it may cause to children as well as to parents.
But this is the next day where in the background you can see where the smoke is still emitting from the particular chemical plant and that the school is then in the foreground.
So in conclusion CHEJ highly recommends built - not building a school on contaminated land and near sources of pollution. But we know this is unrealistic.
But building a school on a contaminated site should be your last resort and it should be cleaned up to standards that protect children.
What can you do? Not every state or city has a law or policy so we encourage you - your - to look at your school districts and states or policies and if they do not have one try to enact one or pass a policy.
EPAs school siting guidance can also be used to - as a resource to start the discussion and to build a policy.
And if you’re an existing school the guidance can be used to access a search for hazards near your school.
So please feel free to contact CHEJ for assistance on how to enact a policy in your area. We have resources available to get you started.
We are available to assist you on how to devise a strategic plan to tackle environmental issues. And we have a science director on staff that can assist with technical or science questions.
I would like to introduce the next speaker which is Matt Dalbey, Office of Sustainable Communities US EPA.
Matthew Dalbey: Terrific. Thank you, Makia. Is it okay? Yes it’s okay. So this is Matt Dalbey. I worked in the Office of Sustainable Communities here at the Environmental Protection Agency.
We - we’re one of the offices that worked with the Office of Children’s Health Protection to work on the voluntary school siting guidelines which Makia mentioned earlier on.
And Makia I just want to say right up front I - we really appreciate the efforts that CHEJ put forward in not only commenting and providing us really great input on the schools siting guidelines but frankly for being one of the main drivers of getting the guidelines into legislation that required us to do the work on this over the last number of years. We’ve appreciate the work that you’ve done on this.
My goal in the next seven minutes or 6-1/2 at this point is to talk about the role of sustainable community approaches in the school siting process and to show that when it comes to, you know, protecting environmental - protecting children from environmental hazards and putting forward, you know, policies and processes that ensure that we get good public health and environmental outcomes from our school siting process sustainable communities are right in the center of that. And we agree with CHEJ on pretty much everything that was put forward by Makia.
Before I jump in there - is that not working? I just want to mention what a sustainable community is. A sustainable community is an urban, suburban or rural community that provides folks with different ways to get around, choices on where they can live and easy access to amenities, retail shopping, jobs, schools, places of worship, et cetera and at the same time protects air quality and water quality so that we have those opportunities for our kids and grandkids just like we had.
Before we sort of jump too deeply into the school siting issue I just want to, you know, establish a baseline. And that is that we all I think can agree that schools should be places where kids can get quality educations in a safe and convenient places. This is the primary goal but where we put our school just like we put any other public investment does actually have consequences.
You know, Sean earlier on discussed sort of quickly, you know, how schools were cited over, you know, in history and how they change over time.
I just want to reiterate that by saying that, you know, in our history schools and neighborhoods and communities were interconnected. And that’s because schools and centers of communities basically solved transportation problems right?
Before we had a car, before we had other modes of transportation like buses and things like that if you wanted to go to school you needed to be able to walk to school right? And if you couldn’t walk to school then you probably weren’t going to be able to get to school right?
So I think it’s really important to remember when you put a school at the center of a community to solve a transportation problem that we in, you know, in the last 50 years have solved differently by having kids get driven to school or by taking buses.
Things have changed though since schools were at the center of community. There have been a huge number of changes whether economic, social or cultural transportation, technology changes.
And that’s - that, you know, that conversation alone could - we could take a day to discuss that. I suspect you would agree Sean.
What has resulted with all these changes is that we’ve had larger schools. They’re further away from communities that they serve. We’ve abandoned existing schools. We’ve compounded the dis-investment that’s gone on in urban communities across the country.
And where we put our schools, you know, has been part of those challenges that have arisen from many of those.
So the flipside, what’s the connection Schools both affect to and respond to community growth right? If you put a school out in the middle of a cornfield you’re probably going to get a road out there and you’re going to get more infrastructure out there. You need your highways out there to serve that.
Flipside right and, you know, you can look at some of the examples that Myrick and Sean talked about, if you reinvest in a community you’re going to get public dollars and private dollars that come into those neighborhoods to help reinforce and build on those public investments that we’re making.
In general schools can either work against or with a range of community goals which include, you know, increasing children’s health opportunities, the physical health of a community, open land - open space, and farm land preservation.
Siting schools well can help reduce traffic congestion, help deal with environmental problems like that relate to air quality and water quality, can help in revitalization efforts, help maintain and grow community character and lead to better social equity outcomes.
I think many of you all have seen this but this is the language from the statute that led to the creation of the voluntary school siting guidelines which we’re discussing.
I’ve highlighted or bolded out the two main points that we looked at. The first one was related to the special vulnerability of children as it relates to hazardous substances and toxic sites.
And the second is modes of transportation available to students. And I’ll refer you back to what I said just a minute or two ago which is that when schools are at the center of communities they help solve the transportation challenge that we’ve solved over the past 50 years with cars and buses.
Okay and there are certainly when we’ve solved these challenges by locating schools at the center of community we also solve other social equity concerns like not every family actually has a car to drive to a school in the evening to participate in community events for their children’s education.
How my doing on time? I’m getting there. Okay, I’ll have to go fast I guess at this point.
Just quickly, here’s our stakeholder process that we went through in developing this - those school siting guidelines.
We started a little bit late but we had folks comment on initial drafts that we did in July 2009.
We received information from an advisory committee on this in 2010, public comment on the guidelines that came out in last November. And we received the responses back on these guidelines in this past spring. And we released the guidelines in 2010.
I think the top aim of the guidelines after we received the comments from the public included one, number one, we want to give communities a wide variety of tools to help them consider the environmental impacts of school siting which aligns exactly what Makia is sort of ended up with.
And we want to make sure that everyone - that folks who are considering where to put a school recognize that public health considerations come from a variety of sources, from the site itself, to its location to the impact of public investments on community schools.
And from our perspective in sustainable communities there is no tolerance for schools being built on contaminated sites. And I’ll say that again, there’s no tolerance for that from our perspective.
Last slide - just to let you know the way these - the guidelines evolved over time we did here that there was concerns that the guidelines did not include buffer zones, you know, from - to exclude sites.
And we also heard that the smart group principles were privileged over environmental concerns. We heard that as we went back and revised the guidelines. We used both of those in our revision.
And we arrived on the idea that one, we wanted to expand the conversation about school siting, number two we wanted to suggest perimeters but not required buffers.
And we wanted to make sure that whatever considerations we brought in whether they’re health and environmental justice or whether it was smart growth for sustainable community approaches, the number one priority was to improve public health outcomes for schoolchildren in communities. So thank you and I’m going to pass it over to (Susie).
Susie Ruhl: Good afternoon. My name is Susie Ruhl and I’m with EPA’s Office of Environmental justice. And my focus today is on the populations who are not living in healthy and sustainable communities, those that are overburdened with pollution and those that are lacking access to infrastructure.
And these are the communities that we concentrate and think about as being communities with environmental justice challenges.
And the emphasis of environmental justice is to both help reduce those risks, those environmental public health risks but also make sure that we bring those positive benefits to those communities.
So in this context our office, office of Environmental Justice has worked closely with both the Office of Children’s Health Protection and Office of Sustainable Communities to make sure that the school siting guidelines address the needs of the communities with environmental justice challenges, the needs of communities that Makia did such an excellent job in helping us see and understand.
So what we did is we worked closely with these offices to make sure that the series of sustainable communities, the theories of environmental protection actually matched the challenges in the communities.
And we listened carefully to what the outcome is and we tried to come up with a range of approaches to achieve that.
So in that vein what I’m going to do today just very briefly is highlight the guiding principles of these school siting guidelines that actually address environmental justice.
And I’m going to discuss some specific approaches that are designed to address the elements of the environmental justice concerns and ultimately try to leave you with the framework that uses the school siting process to really revitalize all communities so they can be healthy and sustainable.
So in that context I think it’s very important that we understand our starting point and where we ultimately want to be and also emphasize -- and again this I think is documentation that EPA did hear from the constituents and of the concerns -- that the starting point is that there are minority and low income children who face multiple environmental hazards that are either on the school siting property itself or adjacent to it -- power plants, refineries, highways.
And we also recognize that the risk to these students comes not just from environmental exposures but from a lack of amenities such as playgrounds for physical activity, access to healthcare, poor nutrition.
So that’s the point that we started and that’s where we wanted to leave in the history.
And as we move forward to make the progress the guidelines also recognize that the process should consider the environmental health and safety of the entire community, specifically the disadvantaged and underserved population.
There was a strong intent to make sure again that we weren’t talking about the general population as a whole, we were talking about the general population and the special vulnerable subpopulations.
Again very similar in trying to have a balance and have a recognition of the importance of both environmental protection and also sustainability it was the recognition that schools that they should be contributing to sustainability to the public health, the livability so this - the very active rule of the school and the school siting process and helping to rebuild the health of the community.
So that’s progress. But I think success will be achieved like we said where the schools themselves are promoting healthy people and healthy behaviors and the schools themselves are the catalysts for the revitalization of the community, really taking it many steps forward and saying that we want to work with all the processes available to achieve this goal.
So again I think that we have worked very hard to establish these principles and the guidelines and they help shape the direction as we move forward.
I think that when we talk about how do we get there, how do we make the progress, the notion is there’s really four parts.
The first part really starts with what Matt Dalbey just said in terms of trying to apply and bring inthe sustainable community approaches.
And that is actually the second part. The first part is to recognize that many communities have a lot of work to do to get to that point where they can start applying sustainability principles.
And the elements of concern are as Makia said, dealing with on-site contamination recognizing that there’s off-site pollution that has to be addressed and finally ensuring that those who are living the policies of the decisions, the parents and the children are part of that process. So I’m going to cover a little bit of each of these very, very briefly over the next two minutes or so, two or three minutes.
Next slide, as we talk about on site contamination and the remediation again, the principles and the guidelines are very clear. They’re very adamant. There is no tolerance for exposure to contamination.
The cleanup criteria, the recommendation was residential abuse -- a very, very highly protective cleanup standard.
And there was also the recognition that it’s not enough to propose activities that may or may not occur for which there are no consequences, no accountability.
And that’s in the notion that when you do address the contamination you make sure you have a plan over the long term to make sure that that exposure is eliminated.
In practice again this is just a little bit of a roadmap to the guidelines themselves. We have the environmental review process which sets out a very clear delineation of the steps and the stages that are essential to make sure that on-site contamination is addressed.
And there’s a lot of information on how do you assess the site, how do you properly clean up that site and again with the long term stewardship.
There’s important information on the potential environmental public health risks and explaining those risks so that communities can articulate the basis of their concern and have the decision-making bodies respond to those concerns.
And third and very importantly the guidelines provide access to links and other methods to have data to support the concerns, data which helps you evaluate what might be happening in your community but also how do you - what are - what is some important information how to address those concerns.
Next slide, you know, again like we said, you start with the site itself but it’s also important to be very, very mindful of what’s surrounding the communities.
Again I think all the speakers before me have talked about the very realistic concern.
Once again the guidelines - the stake in the ground, a very important cornerstone which is the premise that you want to avoid the sites that are either on contaminated properties or in close proximity because you will waste a lot of time and money if you go down the road and look at sites where they have these major flaws. Again that’s the premise of the guidelines.
And I think equally important is the need to address all of the hazards that are addressed prior to the time you deal with that.
Next slide, and finally I think in trying to put it all together the premise of the guidelines is that it’s essential to look at the role of the public and the parents as well as the children in the review of the sites and also the selection process, maintain that involvement over the course of not just the site selection but over the long term making sure any protective measures remain in place and that you’ve engaged the community from the beginning.
And like I said, the guidelines were designed to be very user-friendly. There’s information on quick access to particular issues. There’s frequently asked questions. There’s glossaries. There’s important glossaries and important links.
In terms of the elements of transparency, meaningful participation and there’s information on communication plans, on how do you access information including those that might not speak English and finally providing technical assistance and training.
And basically in conclusion I think it’s important we think of the metaphor of not just making lemonade out of lemons, addressing on site contamination, off site contamination, the lack of amenities and not just applying principles of environmental justice and principles of smart growth separately but trying to put all of this together so that we can see that the schools do become a vehicle to revitalize communities. So thank you very much.
Margot Brown: Hi. This is Margot Brown with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection. I’d like to first of all thank all of our speakers today for their hard work. And I’d also like to thank all of our attendees this afternoon.
We have - we’ve scheduled about 15 minutes for Q&A. And so we’re going to get started with that. If you give us just a moment to grab all the speakers around the table so they’re closer to the microphone.
All right we’re all gathered here so we’re going to take our first question. It’s directed towards you Sean.
Sean O’Donnell: Okay.
Margot Brown: The first question is what do you recommend that school districts do with greenfield properties purchased decades ago?
The districts are insisting that these properties have to be used as future school sites since they are in their inventory despite being far away from the students they serve.
Sean O’Donnell: Well it’s a great question and so I am not suggesting that, you know, we don’t have to deal with some of these sites that are outlying existing communities.
But if you go back to one of the first bullet slides that I had there was an idea of planning in a collaborative method with other agencies, other groups through the process.
And I think you really have to look at development over time in these communities and see how those particular sites might factor into the overall growth strategies for the environment.
So the - and you may end up prioritizing those sites. Some maybe further flung. Maybe they’re useful for other things as well.
Some of the more urban sites for example that we look at, you know, they’re challenged to have, you know, major sports facilities for example on them.
So maybe there’s a centrally located sports complex that’s available to other schools that are on smaller sites that might not have them collocated with them.
So there’s a whole host of different strategies I think that you can use.
But the other thing that we’ve seen which is worth considering is some districts through joint development are actually taking very large sites and bringing in development partners, bringing in the revenue that those development partners might have and building housing, start building a new community around some of those larger sites.
Again 100 acres is old town Alexandria for those of you that, you know, so quite urban areas can be made on sites that, you know, that I’ve even seen high schools built on so hopefully I’ve answered the question.
But again, it’s all about planning and partnership with other agencies and regional planning groups and Department of Public Works thinking, you know, prioritizing those sites, thinking a little differently about how you allocate their resources and maybe bringing in other development partners.
Margot Brown: Thank you very much Sean. Matt or (Susie), or any of the other speakers would you like to add anything to that - to Sean’s answer?
Matthew Dalbey: Hi this is Matt Dalbey. I’ll just add in and maybe emphasize the need for coordination between local education agencies and the county planning commission or the city planning commission.
It’s one of the things that we highlighted in the school siting guidelines as well in other organizations like the trust have highlighted that in their helping Johnny Walk to School publication which is all in their site which I would - I’d encourage folks to have a look at. Cindy do you want to...
Matthew Dalbey: Okay.
Margot Brown: I think this call - this comment’s going to be directed towards the group. I think this person’s referring to what Makia had - or talked about.
And the question is how safe are older schools and can they be renovated safely?
Myrick Howard: Actually I’d be glad to respond to that.
Margot Brown: Okay.
Myrick Howard: The question - this is Myrick. They absolutely in most cases can be renovated into a very safe situation.
You normally expect certain materials to be present in the renovation process such as asbestos, lead paint, sometimes underground storage tanks.
The remediation of these items are really a very small consent of percent of the overall construction budget on these projects. And in many cases those remediations still have to be done if the building’s demolished.
So you’re going to have to abate the asbestos whether you renovate it or whether you tear it down. So you might as well have it as part of the construction budget rather than the demolition budget.
Makia Burns: Can I add something to that Margot? This is...
Margot Brown: Sure.
Makia Burns: Sure yes. It also depends on and, you know, it’s different for each case because sometimes there’s too much contamination.
Originally like Myrick was saying that there could be underground oil tanks or something like that. So there could be so much contamination at the particular site that it could be not as cost-effective to remediate that particular site.
But you should definitely look into seeing if an old building can be remediated and cleaned up.
But like I was saying in my particular presentation there’s a problem in older - not older schools but also older buildings period prior to 1978 has old lighting, old fluorescent lighting fixtures that may contain PCPs or old caulking that contain PCBs as well which is causing problems with cleanup.
So of course that’s additional money that has to be spent to clean up to the standards that occupants can, you know, occupy the particular building. So it depends. It’s just a case by case situation.
Susie Ruhl: This is Susie Ruhl. I would just add that EPA does have some programs. The Office of Brownfield Land Revitalization as well as the Office of Underground Storage Tank programs where there is funding capacity to address things such as underground storage tanks and modest contamination. So it’s not like you’re just having to deal with it on your own.
Margot Brown: Did any last - any of our other speakers want to handle that question?
Our next question is for Makia. And the question - or the person’s asked a question of Makia wants to know you mentioned problems with schools near public transportation as hazards. Can you elaborate on what you mean here?
Makia Burns: What I mean is that there has been a couple studies actually released in the last couple of months that said that schools that are located near highways could be hazards to kids health and they’re also to that academic performance because if they’re sick they are not going to be able to come to school and learn and things like that.
The reason why is because of air pollution and the particulates in the particular air pollution that is detrimental to people’s health. So it can cause respiratory problems.
There’s also studies has been done saying that air pollution can cause diabetes as well so - and obesity problems as well.
So there’s a whole host of problems that air pollution can cause to a school environment.
Matthew Dalbey: This is Matt Dalbey. I would just mention that I think the question was about public transportation. And I, you know, I think that - yes so I’ve, you know, highways, not public transportation so I don’t know...
Margot Brown: Yes. So the - exactly written here that the CHEJ representative mentioned in her slides problems with schools near public transportation as hazardous and...
Makia Burns: Well - sorry. That’s because once again it’s air pollution and it’s because of heavy traffic that could be because in that particular area.
And then also some buildings may still - sorry, some buses could also be using diesel fuel so fuel, of their particular gas which is a hazard as well. So those are some of the problems that could be hazards for access to public transportation.
Male: Okay. I’d like to ((inaudible)).
Margot Brown: Okay. Okay. The next question is how can our school districts afford to follow the new guidelines? This person says we’ve got less money than we’ve ever had before. And I’m going to throw this out to the entire panel.
Male: Why don’t you start in - yes.
Male: Well I think I’m going to ask Myrick in many ways that the renovation of some of the existing architecture that we are ready have is almost always, you know, more cost-effective.
And there was a study done by the state of Michigan I think in 2003 which they did something very similar to Myrick where they found that the modernization of their existing school infrastructure was in every case that they studied more cost-effective than the new construction option.
Now that said, you know, in the case studies that I showed, you know, the historic buildings quite often need a complement and in addition to accomplish, you know, many of the things, you know, that a contemporary curriculum would require.
So really if it’s a strategy of existing architecture, new architecture coming together and optimizing these community schools in many ways.
Matthew Dalbey: Yes I’ll jump in to say that one of the things that we were hoping to - one of the points which we’re trying - hoping to try to make in the school siting guidelines was that if school districts and local governments and state governments have a more broad view of the cost of a school they may find that smaller schools, schools that the public doesn’t have to pay for, bus transportation, schools that can be collocated with other, you know, community uses can actually be less expensive than what we do now and what we’ve done over the past 60, 70 years which is you locate a school in one place, you locate a community center someplace else, you locate the library in another place. And you have to drive to all those places and - or be driven in the case of the school.
So when you have a more comprehensive view of the cost of schools and the facilities and maintaining the facilities and getting folks to those facilities there is a potential and a very significant potential for there to actually be cost savings when you build community centered schools.
Male: One thing I’d like to add as well is the whole subject of maintenance as well as renovation.
One thing about renovation is you don’t have to do it all at once. You can do a phased approach. But even before you talk about renovation, in many cases just taking care of the building and making sure that you’re keeping things in good working order and up to date is something I’ve seen many school districts really fail at, a very basic 101 keeping the roof in good shape and keeping the gutters cleaned out and some really basic stuff like that that can help a lot.
Susie Ruhl: This is Susie Ruhl. And building on what Matt said in terms of a comprehensive look and also recognizing the notion of multiple benefits and shared costs might not be equally distributed I think we do have to keep in mind the cost savings that come from the healthcare cost reduction.
Again, I am sensitive to maybe the school board’s that paying for that. But the notion of responding to outside air pollution sources with the asthma rates, the disease disparities and minority in low income populations is very high, the cost is high. The same applies to obesity and the cost of obesity and the chronic diseases.
So I think that as Matt was saying is if we can take a little bit more of a holistic approach and look at not just who all is benefiting but even those that are benefiting contributing to the cost I think it’ll be a more comprehensive solution.
Margot Brown: Thank you everyone. We’ve got time for one last question. And this participant would like to know how can states help with better school siting?
Matthew Dalbey: (And I) mentioned why we were going to go over this.
I would just mentioned that we - in the siting guidelines, school stating guidelines we did talk about some of the considerations that states could promote and I think just off the top of my head - or not - just a couple things.
One in some states actually incentivize the building of new schools over the rehabilitation of schools so removing that incentive.
Number two, every single state in the country has planning enabling legislation. And some of the planning enabling legislation could be expanded to include school siting and school facility planning right?
And so if not requiring but encouraging the collaboration between local education agencies and planning boards, planning commissions and things like that at the local level would be two places to start.
Male: Do you want me.
Male: Yes I think that’s, you know, Matt’s right on is that there are criteria out there that still exists that mandate minimum acreage requirements.
So I think what we’re talking about today is rethinking some of those very prescriptive standards.
In some ways we need to be more creative in the siting and realize that the School without Walls for example that I showed is on a half-acre.
So it’s extraordinarily small. But because it’s so well-integrated into its context, you know, that’s the power of the education that they deliver is the relationship with the university. And it’s only realized because how tight that site is.
So we need to think again and unleash the sort of creativity available to, you know, thinking differently about education in the 21st Century, how it is integrated beyond the borders of our own sites and also think about how the community, you know, can better engage these sites.
So and the, you know, the 2/3 rules that, you know, we also hear so much about which, you know, suggests that if a renovation costs 60% of a new construction option you would opt for the new construction option.
And I have trouble explaining that to my sons, you know, that something costs less you go for the more expensive option.
So it’s, you know, those kinds of criteria that I think drives some of these decisions and often become tools, you know, to drive the decision in some ways, you know, creating perhaps not an optimal solution.
Susie Ruhl: And this is Susie. The only thing I would add is that again as we’re trying to look at the integrated approach that when we think state action don’t limit it to the Department of Education but also look at the departments of health, bringing in the departments of environmental protection so that there’s an integrated approach in trying to get to where everyone wants to be.
Myrick Howard: And this is Myrick. One of the best things we did in North Carolina was get a legislator and get the word standards changed to guidelines in terms of the policies of the department of public instruction so that the local school boards could make the decisions to go in new directions.
It’s so - it’s shocking to me at times to look at the aerial views of some of the new schools that have been built in North Carolina and see how much of the grounds are taken up with parking which just sets up a whole new generation for, you know, a car as their lifeline.
Makia Burns: I’d just like to add one thing just to build on what everyone else has said that our advice to states as well as communities is that they’ll be proactive, ((inaudible)) be acting to a situation or school sighting disaster, look at your laws and policy in your particular area, get those laws and policies or school siting policy on the books now before there is a particular disaster not only in the context of where to place the school but also where not to place a polluting industry as well.
So you can do it both ways. So you shouldn’t put the school next to polluting stores nor should you put an industrial facility next to a school as well.
Barbara Worth: All right if we are finished with the questions and answers this is Barbara Worth, I would like to once again thank today’s speakers for their very informative presentations and thank you all for joining us.