Schools serve as institutions associated with educating a community’s children; in so doing they also service as anchors within a community. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, features of “community-centered schools” include the use of existing public and private infrastructure and buildings whenever possible, shared use of space for both educational and recreational activities in the community, are congruent with the design and culture of the local neighborhood community, and present students with an opportunity to actively travel (i.e. walk or bike) to school.


School siting, or the physical location and characteristics of a school site, has implications for school families, communities and public agencies. School siting is a topic that involves a number of planning professions, including education facility planners, school transportation planners, land use planners, municipal and regional transportation planners, and real estate development professionals.

While policy and planning research have evaluated elements of school siting and residential development, particularly the relationship between school proximity and home value, less is known of how the locational decision of where to build a school influences transportation choices and costs for families, local communities, and public agencies. This educational module highlights the implications of school siting for planning practice, with a focus on the policy mechanisms that influence where a school site is selected and barriers and opportunities to coordinated school site development between public agencies at various levels and of different disciplines.

The construction of a new public school requires the selection of a physical land parcel, or site, on which to build the school. The process of selecting a site on which to construct a school includes many factors – the amount of time required to plan and build the school; the projected district demographic trends relevant to the time of project completion; the availability of public funds to construct the school from either state or local school district levels; and the availability of land on which to construct the school. As a result, school siting involves a number of public and private actors, including school district elected and appointed officials, land use and transportation planners for both districts and local governments, private residential developers and individual property owners.