Raising children in the city could be considered somewhat novel in a country where the conventional wisdom dictates a move to the suburbs as a family grows. But one family in Washington, DC is glad they stayed in the city, which they believe offers benefits that suburbs often can’t replicate. The challenge is to ensure that more families can reap the same benefits from living and growing in a city.
Children & Schools
Getting around is a perpetual logistical problem for families. The experience of getting to school, both as a student and now as a parent, has demonstrated to me just how inequitable our transportation system is and what a barrier it is to opportunity.
In the conversations about cities, much of the media attention has been focused on young professional or older, retiring Americans. But families with children have been largely overlooked in the midst of our current urban renaissance. There has been some recent debated over whether the number of children (and thus families) is increasing or on the decline in cities, and it got us thinking: what would a place designed for families look like?
Crossposted from the Governors’ Institute on Community Design.
Fuel costs are rising rapidly, and individual drivers aren’t the only ones feeling the pain. School transportation systems around the country are struggling to adjust to cost increases. In a survey of school districts conducted last month, almost 76 percent of transportation directors report that rising fuel costs are affecting operations.
Unfortunately, in the past few decades many school districts have – literally – built gas price vulnerability into the system, often influenced by shortsighted state standards for school construction and renovation. For example, many states require schools to be built on excessively large lots to accommodate fields and parking.
As a result, more and more schools are built on the outskirts of communities, far away from the students they serve. While 87 percent of students lived within one mile of school in 1969, that number had dropped to 21 percent (PDF) by 2001. Even when students live within walking distance, roads are often too hazardous for walking to be a safe option.
Huge, sprawling “mega-schools” built at the edges of town aren’t required by law in Minnesota. But minimum acreage recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Education have forced local communities into a one-size-fits-all approach, resulting in new schools that are unwalkable and unconnected to the rest of their communities. On July 1st, this is going to change in Minnesota.
Pediatricians should help work against conventional suburban development (top) and for traditional neighborhoods (lower). Why? For starters, so kids can walk to school again. AAP’s Policy Statement includes this drawing by Duany, Plater-Zyberk. A version of the drawing is available at http://www.dpz.com/research.aspx, Diagram #25. Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics adopted a ground-breaking policy statement … Continued
The students who live 100 yards from the school are probably still driving to this mega-campus. Around 30 to 40 years ago, the percentage of kids that walked to school was around 60-70 percent. Go into a room of older adults and ask them to raise their hands if they walked to elementary or middle … Continued