Saving Historic Schools

Helping Johnny Walk to School in Pennsylvania
About the Program
Beginning in May 2008 and extending through April 2012, Preservation Pennsylvania worked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the United State Environmental Protection Agency on a program entitled, "Helping Johnny Walk to School:  Sustaining Communities through Smart School Siting Policies."  This program encourages school districts to retain historic school and to locate new schools in locations where a portion of students can walk or bike to school and to use schools as a center of community activities beyond regular school hours.  This multi-year project looked at current policies regarding historic schools and siting of new schools, identified barriers to retaining neighborhood schools and offered a series of policy recommendations that would encourage smart school siting and the continued use of historic schools.  The program was an outgrowth of the popular publication, Why Johnny Can't Walk to School - Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl, published in 2002 by the National Trust. 
Preservation Pennsylvania completed a policy recommendation on Capital Maintenance Reimbursement and Joint Use of Community-Centered School in Pennsylvania. A policy that limited funds to be used for demolition was changed to allow funds to be used for rehabilitation or renovation.

Hazelton Castle Elementary Middle School (Luzerne County)

Renovate or Replace  The Case for Restoring and Reusing Older School Buildings 

In 1998, Preservation Pennsylvania created a special edition of Pennsylvania At Risk to publicize the increasing number of abandonment and demolitions of neighborhood schools.  At the same time and in conjunction with Pittsburgh History and Landmarks, they petitioned the Pennsylvania Department of Eduction (PDE) to amend the regulations that required school districts to abandon older schools if renovation costs were more than 60% of the replacement costs.  For the first time schools that were to be rehabilitated could receive the same reimbursement as newly constructed schools.  Preservation Pennsylvania funded a study to examine the PDE statute that prohibited the renovation of ordinary (masonry or brick exterior walls with wood joists and interior structural components) due to fire safety concerns.  When the study revealed no positive correlation between ordinary building construction and fire safety, PDE deleted this stipulation.  Public policy efforts resulted in PDE establishing a regulation that promotes the use of covenants by school districts to avoid the demolition of historic neighborhood schools.  Since that time, Preservation Pennsylvania has been an advocate for the retention of historic neighborhood schools. 

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