I think it's great that CM Wells has introduced legislation for joint space use coordination between the schools and the parks/rec. department
See "Councilman pushes for more access to D.C. school fields" from the Washington Examiner. From the article:
A District lawmaker, frustrated by periods of idleness at D.C. Public Schools properties throughout Washington, will on Tuesday introduce a plan to give the public access to those institutions' facilities for athletic use outside of school hours.
"Frequently, the fields of our public schools sit empty and unused," Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, who announced a mayoral bid last month, will tell the D.C. Council on Tuesday. "A significant barrier to using these public facilities is that the District holds liability concerns for the city and government employees."
For example, residents are able to use the Coolidge High School outdoor track (a great facility) for jogging before and after school hours. (Sign pictured at left.) Many school playground areas are open for public use during non-school hours.
But it is true that it's a pain to use inside resources. And there was a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News saying it was fine to close school libraries, because kids could use the public library. On the other hand, why not integrate school and public libraries to extend community resources?
But this kind of space co-location is something I have advocated for years, and would still prefer it be initiated through the master planning process, not "legislation."
Baltimore County has had an MOU between the school system and the recreation and parks department on this exactsame issue for 60 years!!!!! It means that the parks department will subsidize more robust facilities for particular schools beyond what the school on its own would require, to serve broader community needs in one co-located facility. From the webpage:
As a result of this concept, school-recreation centers feature many additional amenities, which could not otherwise be funded such as recreation offices, activity rooms, full-size gyms, additional athletic fields, tennis and multipurpose courts, storage areas, concession stands and comfort stations. Further, each neighborhood has an easily accessible community center and focal point for activities. The school-recreation center concept is formally adopted through a "Joint Use Agreement"...
And the schools stay open for the recreation and other community purposes (I held one of the planning meetings for the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan at Cockeysville Middle School) til later in the evening. At least 9 pm.
Note that the article in the Post about the Dunbar girls track team being intrepid in training while they don't have a facility at their school ("Dunbar track & field teams don't let lack of a track slow them down") talks very proudly of having a two lane indoor track at their high school. Two lanes? Big deal, although I suppose it is for a particular school.
Why doesn't the city have an exposition facility other than the DC Armory with a full indoor track? Arlington County, which is the size of , has at least one such facility. I've been to the one at Thomas Jefferson Middle School/Community Center.
-- Joint Use Schools Initiative - Center for Cities & Schools
-- blog entry, 2006, "Public assets: public school buildings used for more than school"
Kaboom, the national organization which assists communities in improving and building playgrounds, has produced a report, Play Matters, which among other elements, addresses:
local initiatives that have increased the quantity of available play spaces and opportunities, improved the quality of kids playtime, and increased children’s safe access to them.
Blog entry reprint: Another example of a need for a DC parks and recreation master plan, 2011
... ideally that would have a memorandum of understanding with DC Public Schools and with charter schools about access to facilities when school is not in session. (And maybe even the local colleges), not to mention including guidance with regard to National Park Service facilities located in the city.
Anyway, yesterday's Post has a big piece about a "controversy" concerning the use of the pool at Wilson High School, "Pool wars: How long should swimming lanes be aat D.C.’s aquatic centerpiece?"
In a piece a few years ago, I suggested that parks and recreation planning needs to occur at at least three scales:
- subdistrict (maybe by quadrant or by the Planning Office's 10 designated areas, which are slightly smaller than Wards)
I don't think Wards are a good scale at which to plan for these kinds of facilities because residents need services but maybe a facility can serve multiple wards, even if Councilmembers don't think so (e.g., the Ward 4 Senior Center is less than 3 miles from the Ward 1 Senior Center).
Certainly, a city of 600,000 people needs more than one public facility with a 50m long pool. Maybe we don't need three, but maybe two? Etc.
E.g., we don't have one indoor track or exposition facility other than the DC Armory, which is unaffordable for most nonprofit events and organizers, etc.
From the article:
... A spat over the length of the lap lanes has roiled the waters.
On one end: swimmers who want shorter lanes to accommodate more people and different activities. On the other: a loose coalition led by competitive athletes who want to keep the status quo because Wilson is the city’s only indoor pool with the 50-meter lanes they consider ideal for training.
Both sides want to know: Whose pool is it, anyway?
It’s not the biggest issue in the city, by any stretch or butterfly stroke. But it does lead to another question: Should a public pool — and by extension the District government — serve the broadest range of residents or an underserved minority?
The Wilson Aquatic Center is considered by many to be the crown jewel of a massive overhaul of the District’s parks and recreation facilities launched during the tenure of former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D)...
Clearly, not having a master plan for parks and recreation facilities has contributed to this problem. There ought to be facilities that satisfy both types of swimmers, it shouldn't be an either/or question.
Past blog entries:
-- Prototyping and municipal capital improvement programs
-- Government facilities planning can accomplish multiple objectives
-- No area municipality does it better: Arlington County extracting mixed primary use benefits from publicly supported facilities
Adult runners using the Coolidge High School outdoor track, before 8:45 am, Thursday June 6th.
Residents walking on the outdoor track at Coolidge High School, before 8:45 am, Thursday June 6th.