As D.C. residents seek safe and clean spaces to be active, they should be able to use the gymnasiums, courts, and outside recreational facilities at their neighborhood public schools. The District needs to ensure a process is in place to encourage schools to open these facilities to the community.
Despite the existence of shared use agreements for public school facilities in the District, community groups reported barriers to frequent and robust use of recreational facilities in neighborhoods. Based on these responses, the following may be next steps for D.C. leaders to explore ─
IMPROVE THE EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY of the process for seeking approval for shared use by: Identifying an agency that oversees the agreements; Improving transparency of the process; and Centralizing applications and approvals.
CONVENE A TASK FORCE with representatives of the community: principals from public and public charter schools, local government agencies, recreational organizations, and public health professionals.
CREATE A CENTRAL CLEARINGHOUSE where schools could search for programming they would like to bring to their community, and groups could see what locations and times are available.
Community groups offer suggestions on ways to increase their communities’ use of school recreation areas:
CREATE A SYSTEM TO MONITOR the effectiveness and cost of improved shared use policies and the impact on the community.
ESTABLISH A SHARED USE FUND that would: Assist both schools and community groups in high-risk neighborhoods to cover maintenance and security costs, and extend liability coverage to non-profit community groups lacking the funds for insurance.
DELIVER ASSISTANCE to local schools and to community groups through a shared use toolkit and publicly accessible website.
Our newest report, developed with the help the shared use working group comprised of DC community members and representatives from a number of DC agencies, dives into the challenges community-based organizations face when trying to utilize school facilities to provide physical activity. The report makes six specific recommendations to solve the issues felt by these groups and help move the city forward to being a healthier metropolis.