Sharing Space

Article excerpt

SCHOOLS CAN SERVE AS RECREATION FACILITIES TO BENEFIT THE COMMUNITY

The potential for using a common physical plant to provide for a community's education and recreation needs has been recognized for more than 100 years, when New York schools were opened in 1898 as evening recreation centers with leaders who were responsible for recreation programming. In 1940, the National Education Association urged school districts to make available, for leisure use, all suitable school facilities in the community outside of school hours and during vacation periods. This is perhaps the most important single step any community can take in coordinating its recreation and education programs. In planning ahead for community use of schools, the plant must be designed to meet the requirements of the new programs (p. 7).

Despite this long history of awareness, in most communities the recreation potential of school plants remains unfulfilled.

The Case for Joint Provision

Cooperation between a park and recreation agency and a school district may take the form of joint provision or joint use. These two terms differentiate the time at which cooperation is initiated.

Joint provision indicates cooperation was instigated at the outset before a facility was constructed. It implies that both agencies had input into its design in the planning stages, negotiated details of their respective roles in its management, funding its operations before it was constructed and contributed resources to its capital development.

Joint use refers to shared use by agencies that was negotiated after a facility was built, so it was not purposefully designed for use by both their clienteles. Most commonly it relates to the use of school facilities by park and recreation agencies.

Joint provision is a superior option to joint use because it affords the opportunity to provide appropriate and well designed facilities at the outset. For example, facilities designed for community recreation use could be grouped at one end of the school building, in a special wing or in a separate building. Such a functional arrangement limits access to other parts of the school building, making possible efficient control and economical operation and maintenance.

Figure 1 schematically illustrates the case for joint provision. The section marked "School priority" in Figure 1 shows that the potential use of recreation facilities built and exclusively used by a school district is likely to represent a very small proportion of their potential overall use.

Such facilities may be used for only 180 days each year for a limited number of hours each day. Community-built recreational facilities are likely to be used extensively on weekends, in the evenings and during school vacations. However, such facilities may experience much less intensive use on weekdays during the hours when people are at work or at school. Hence, the facility-use requirements of a school district and public agency are reasonably complementary.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The calculations in Figure 2 suggest that if use of the school plant is limited to school hours, including an allowance for extra-curricular activities (from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily), then it will be used for only 18 percent of its potential capacity. In contrast, if the school is opened for community use during evenings, weekends and school vacations, then usage of the recreation elements in the plant could increase to 61 percent of potential capacity.

[Figure 2 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

These calculations show that community use of recreation facilities may triple the school plant's use if it is designed to facilitate community access. They suggest that in many communities, the real problem in terms of meeting recreation needs is simply one of harnessing the existing school resources and exploiting their full potential to meet the needs of the wider community. …