Thursday, July 07, 2005

Why can't Johnny walk to school?

There it is on page 16 of the 23 page Metro Nashville Public Schools Fiscal Year 2005-2006 Proposed Operating Budget dated May 3, 2005: $29,783,200 for transportation

That's just this side of: Thirty Million Dollars.

I couldn't believe it when I read it. According to the TN DOE Metro Nashville has 69,445 students. That's and average of $431 and change for every single one of them to just get to the door. That's about 20% of the budget and not one bit of academic learning has occurred yet. OK, I'll grant you there were probably plenty of lessons in socialization going on.

With that $30 million in mind I was interested in this press release from the Tennessee Preservation Trust that contained the phrase: Why can't Johnny walk to school.

As you may know, the National Trust placed Historic Neighborhood Schools on the list of the nation's 11 Most Endangered Places in 2000. In A Community Guide to Saving Older Schools and Why Johnny Can't Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl, we addressed the myths about renovation of existing schools and that America's older and historic schools are being abandoned due to policies that encourage consolidation and new construction over renovation and continued use.


CEFPI's updated guidelines incorporate many community-friendly changes
advocated by the National Trust and others, including significant changes to acreage standards and siting recommendations.

This spring, the National Trust partnered with CEFPI, the National Center
for Preservation Technology and Training, and the US Environmental
Protection Agency to promote the new guidelines to governors, state
departments of education, state historic preservation officers, and
statewide and local historic preservation organizations. CEFPI's web site ( describes the new materials, which will help local citizens, elected officials, school boards, and land-use
planners make informed decisions about school renovation and construction.

I loved the turn of the century school I attended for my elementary education. It had character and personality. It was grand and castle-like--just perfect for a young child's imagination. And was actually just three blocks away from my home. There was a small mom and pop corner store where we'd go to buy candy and soda after school. And the neighborhood was small enough that "Mom & Pop" knew us and our families.

I think it has cost us a great deal more than we realize when children are warehoused in efficient and cost effective boxes with tiny windows. When we don't utilize every available building possible. When we only see the money and time involved in rehabbing our history. $30 million is a lot of money. I can't help but think that some of that could be saved if we decided that instead of buying gasoline we invest in neighborhood schools where children can actually walk to school. Call the walk PE and it's a win-win.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

I hear ya. The school around the corner from me has a once-a-year walk to school fest. To promote physical education.

yet I walked up the street one day, and the bus dropped off a child whose backyard butted up to school property.