Shared Use of School Property
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Being physically active is important for both individual and public health. The obesity epidemic is driven, in part, by sedentary lifestyles and the lack of physical activity. For people to be physically active, they must have access to safe, affordable, and convenient recreational facilities. As many communities do not have public recreational facilities readily available to them, public health advocates are focusing attention on ways to increase community access to safe, affordable, and convenient places to be physically active. Communities with limited access to public recreational space are exploring opportunities to develop partnerships with schools for the use of school property to promote physical activity in the community. School property can provide a valuable resource for community recreational space and facilitate physical activity through recreation and sport activities before, during, and after school hours. At the same time, schools and communities need to find ways to minimize the potential liability risks created when schools open their grounds for community recreational use.
Several legal and policy tools exist to help schools and communities overcome some of the obstacles to recreational use of school property by communities. These tools include joint use agreements, waivers and releases, liability insurance, clarifying state liability laws, amongst others.
Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).
The Missouri State Alliance of YMCAs Pioneering Healthier Communities team, funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2013 to work on Childhood Obesity Policy Improvements, identified Community Use as a critical area to improve public policy in Missouri. Six leaders stepped forward to define and lead a project, in partnership with the Public Health Law Center, to learn about and document barriers related to community use in Missouri.
In 2013, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the Washington State Alliance of YMCAs Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities team to work towards improving the childhood obesity policy. Shared use of school property was a critical area identified to improve public policy in Washington. To better understand what was happening across the state, two surveys were designed to learn more about the shared, community use of schools as a place for physical activity, recreation, and food facilities.
The Public Health Law Center, Wisconsin Association of School Boards, and Transform Wisconsin developed several resources that explain liability protection provided by recreational agreements. Using these materials allow schools to take advantage of the liability protection offered by state law, and increase shared use of schools spaces.
Other Helpful Resources:
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research
- American Heart Association
- Center for Cities and Schools at the University of California Berkeley and the 21st Century School Fund
- National Association of State Boards of Education
- National School Boards Association
- National Recreation and Parks Association
- National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity
- Prevention Institute