Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Did You Walk or Bike To School As a Kid?

There's an interesting poll at Preservation Nation's blog about community-centered schools.  Historically, schools were located within walking distance of most of the pupils.  This was especially true in the days of one-room school houses when people weren't as mobile as they are today.  Generally, though, schools were built in the centers of towns because the center of town was just that - the place where people came to shop, be entertained, do business, and go to school.  And, of course, the place where many people lived within walking distance.  Unfortunately, many towns are dying out, particularly here in Southwest Virginia where we've had main streets bypassed and industries closed.  

With school budgets as they are, there is certainly talk about closing or consolidating schools in many towns.  That was all the rage in the 1960s and seems to be the talk to solve budget woes again.  Unfortunately, that is often a death knell for communities hanging on by a thread.  The schools are often the center of the community with everyone, young and old, rallying around the high school football team on Friday night or attending other school functions. 

People want the newest and best for their children.  There's even a School Board member in these parts who said his goal is to build all new schools to get the kids out of the old ones in the district.   And, unfortunately, a lot of times, schools are targeted for closing just because they are old.  Often they are.  But you know what?  Many of these big brick schools built in the 1920s and 30s, can last centuries longer than many of the new schools being built today.  Many have big bright rooms with (gasp!) windows that open and close.  They were built with materials that have stood the test of thousands of students.  Engineers and developers can always skew the numbers in their favor, but the fact is that it is generally more economical to rehabilitate the old school and make it more energy efficient than it is to tear it down and build a new one. 

Check out Helping Johnny Walk To School for more information about the importance of community-centered schools.  And if you must close your school, repurpose the school as a community center or other function that takes advantage of the classrooms, auditorium, and gymnasium located in the center of your town rather than letting it fall to ruin.  You never know when it might be called back into educational use again due to, say, a gym collapse.

No comments:

Post a Comment