New urbanists and health advocates call for overturning state standards that result in overly large school sites.
Decisions on where schools are built and how much land they occupy are gradually beginning to reflect New Urbanism’s belief in the importance of physically fitting the schools into their communities.
Since 2003, three states — Rhode Island, Maine, and South Carolina — have eliminated minimum acreage requirements for new schools. The organization that had long been the chief proponent of acreage standards — the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, or CEFPI — has backed away from such standards. (see table of state minimum acreage requirements on page 7).
Some of the credit for this progress belongs to the Smart Growth Program of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provided a study grant that led CEFPI to remove acreage guidelines from the 2004 edition of its influential Guide for Planning Educational Facilities. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has also played a role, drawing attention to school siting in its booklet “Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School,” first published in 2000.
In South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford, a Republican, persuaded the legislature to end acreage requirements, which he