Addressing Challenges to the Shared Use of School Recreational Facilities: Community Partnerships That Enable the Shared Use of School Recreational Facilities Benefit Everyone

By Spengler, John O.; Connaughton, Daniel. P. et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, November-December 2011 | Go to article overview

Addressing Challenges to the Shared Use of School Recreational Facilities: Community Partnerships That Enable the Shared Use of School Recreational Facilities Benefit Everyone


Spengler, John O., Connaughton, Daniel. P., Carroll, Michael S., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


The idea of schools sharing their recreational facilities after hours with local I parks or community groups is not new. In fact, the concept has been around I for quite some time, and its merits have been discussed (Crompton, 2000; JL. Dustin, Hibbler, McKenney, & Blitzer, 2004J. Crompton made the case for increasing the use of school facilities by making them available to the community outside of normal school operating hours. Dustin and colleagues (2004) supported Crompton specifically in regard to sharing school recreational facilities with local park and recreation departments. With the obesity epidemic in the United States continuing to grow, there is strong support for the increased access and shared use of school recreational facilities. For example, a Healthy People 2020 recommendation is that school recreational facilities be opened to the community before, during, and after school hours, as well as on weekends, holidays, and over the summer (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). The American Academy of Pediatrics echoed this recommendation, arguing for increased access to school grounds after school hours (Gomez, LeBlanc, & Murray, 2006). The purpose of this article is to discuss the benefits of shared use of school recreational facilities with partner organizations and to provide examples of such partnerships, potential barriers, and recommendations for addressing challenges to such agreements. It is hoped that the information in this article will serve to encourage more schools to partner with their local community and civic organizations in order to offer access to school recreational facilities for community use.

Shared Use

The shared use of school recreational facilities holds the potential to offer activity opportunities for many people, including those without any. Noted barriers to exercise among youths and adults include lack of time and inconvenience. Offering the use of school facilities, which are easily accessible sites for recreation and physical activity, would help to lessen these barriers. Cost may also be a barrier that shared use has the potential to alleviate. Additionally, opening school facilities to the public for recreation may help foster a sense of community, potentially lessening vandalism in and around the school (Crompton, 2000). The sharing of school recreational facilities is particularly important in low-income and minority communities. Children in under-resourced communities are often less active due to the lack of access to safe, free or low cost, and convenient recreation and sport facilities (Powell, Slater, Chaloupka, & Harper, 2006). For children in communities with few resources, a school in the heart of their community may be the best or perhaps even the only setting for physical activity when a public park is too far away or their family cannot afford to join a fitness center or sign them up for fee-based youth sport programs. Without viable or safe places to exercise and play, children in low-income and minority communities are more likely to stay inside and engage in sedentary activities such as watching television or playing video games (Kumanyika & Grier, 2006), Schools are a good place for community recreation because they are usually located close to home, are safer and more familiar to kids and parents than other areas, and have sport and exercise facilities such as tracks, gymnasiums, ball fields, playgrounds, and courts (National Association of Counties, 2007).

Examples of Shared Use

The shared use of sport and recreational facilities presents opportunities for schools, community organizations, and local governments to carry out organized, active recreation and sport programs for free or at a minimal cost to participants. Examples of such opportunities include allowing third parties to run youth and community sport programs at school facilities, and allowing schools and local governments to have reciprocal access to recreational facilities (table 1). …

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