Photo: Shelley Mays/The Tennessean
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden announced that solutions to the nation's daunting infrastructure and education problems will start at the local level.
Biden indicated at the National League of Cities' annual Congress of Cities in Nashville that the nation is in need of "a resurgence" in education and the limiting factor for job growth is the United State's crumbling road, water, and energy infrastructure. Biden also called for a buy-in from local government's on initiatives to address climate change. He noted that it will be local government's – albeit with some help – that will be left with the lingering effects of natural disasters.
How, as a leader in local government, can you begin to resolve these problems and meet the solutions that Biden referenced?
Think Community-Oriented Schools
Community-oriented schools are generally more sustainable and in line with smart growth principles than larger schools or those built at the edges of established cities and towns. In a 2003 article for the American School Board Journal titled “Build ‘Smart,’” Barbara McCann and Constance Beaumont outlined characteristics of “Smart Growth Schools.” These characteristics, paraphrased below, also describe community-oriented schools. Smart growth schools:
- Are small in size and thus fit gracefully into the neighborhoods they serve
- Encourage broad community involvement in school facility planning
- Provide high-quality education
- Are located within a neighborhood and are safe for children to walk or bike to
- Act as a neighborhood anchor and support community use of the school facility after school hours
- Are well designed and fit the scale and design of the surrounding neighborhood
- Make good use of existing resources, including historic school buildings, whenever possible
These characteristics are compatible with the U.S. Department of Education’s “Six Principles of Facilities Design,” which state that the learning environment should:
- Enhance teaching and learning, and accommodate the needs of all learners
- Serve as a center of community
- Result from a planning and design process involving all stakeholders
- Provide for health, safety, and security
- Make effective use of all available resources
- Allow for flexibility and adaptability to changing needs
These principles have been endorsed by the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International, the American Institute of Architects, the American Association of School Administrators, and the Construction Managers Association of America, among others.
Start Addressing Climate Change
From the wildfires and landslides in the West to hurricanes and flooding in the South, the effects of climate change are being felt throughout the United States and it greatly affects those at the local government level. The U.S. infrastructure is especially vulnerable to climate-related impacts, which can pose a serious threat to America’s national security, energy security, economic wellbeing, and quality of life. Below are several resources to assist you in addressing climate change in your community:
So... what have you done to improve the education or infrastructure of your community?