The official case study is now available on Prince George’s County’s shared-use agreement between the public schools and park department. This is a very successful and long-term relationship in which Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation have been able to maximize their programming and reach more community residents through using school buildings and facilities in the evenings and on weekends. Additionally, their school/park model co-locates schools and community centers so that sharing resources saves money and creates a community hub.
Schools are often already the center of neighborhoods and locating more community focused activities at these locations allows activities to be reach by walking, bicycling or public transit. This increases the number of people out and about in the neighborhood and increases physical activity. Please check out the new case study on our Best Practices page for more details!
Thanks to our speakers yesterday for their very informative presentations on shared-use. Marty Martinez, Bay Area Policy Manager kicked us off with an overview of shared-use agreements. Shared-use agreements are agreements between a school and outside organization to use school property after normal school hours. Marty was first introduced to shared-use agreements through his work in public health. Public health professionals realize schools are great assets to communities-they are often located in neighborhoods and have facilities for physical activity such as fields, playgrounds and gymnasiums. When schools can be used in the evenings and weekends for programming or open gyms, the entire community benefits with an increase in physical activity opportunities. This is especially important in neighborhoods that do not have access to open space or other safe places to play.
Bill Sheehan, Assistant Chief, Sports, Health and Wellness Division for Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation gave an example from right here in the Greater Washington region. The work in Prince George’s is phenomenal. A policy between Parks and Recreation and Prince George’s County Public Schools has been in place since 1982. The turn-key programs gives Parks and Recreation full access to schools after hours for summer playground, open gyms, sport leagues and classes such as calligraphy. The County also operates several park/schools in which Park and Recreation community centers and schools are co-located and share facilities on the same site. The co-location create a synergy and good working relationship with the school.
One key to success that Bill shared is that for their turn-key programs, in which after school hours, Parks and Recreation actually have the keys to the school, it is helpful to hire a person from the school’s facilities staff. The facilities staff know the building very well and are able to help troubleshoot any issues. From the school perspective, one of their staff persons is there in case something is broken and to ensure the rules are being followed. It is a simple solution that creates a harmonious relationship.
Finally, I wrapped up the webinar by talking about why transportation is important. Shared-use agreements increase activity at schools in the evening and on weekends in addition to the daily use. It is important that schools are located in neighborhoods and accessible by walking and bicycling. This benefits students and adults taking classes or joining sports leagues. Not only will they be physically active on their trip to the school but having a parent pick them up or having a car is not a barrier to participation. Complete Streets policies are another way to ensure the entire community is developing or redeveloping into a walkable and bikeable community. Complete Streets policies ensure that when a streets is designed it is designed for all users of all abilities; making it possible for everyone to get to the school without using a car.
The presenters have generously made their presentations available. Please check them out and contact me with further questions or to be connected with the presenters.