Site Selection for New Schools
Introduction: There was a time when cheap land was a major factor for school site selection. Many schools were built on landfills, swamps, and near industries and highways. We had a new school with hundreds of tiny frogs in some classrooms because it was built on a swamp! Here is an overview of things that are now considered when choosing a site for a new school.
Nova Scotia decision-makers keep in mind that the primary users of the school will be children whose bodies continue to grow and develop until adulthood. What they do, breathe, and ingest can impact on their current and future well-being.
The following are items to consider when choosing a site for a new school, keeping in mind that the primary users of the school will be children whose bodies continue to grow and develop until adulthood. What they do, breathe, and ingest can impact their current and future well-being and their educational outcomes.
1) Site history research
- Include aerial photographs, ownership records, environmental assessment reports, geological reports, environmental permits or charges information on hazardous materials storage or contamination of adjacent sites.
2) Site visit – Look For:
- hazardous waste storage
- climate factors such as prevailing winds
- elevations, swamp, marsh
- EMF sources, radio frequency sources (towers, power lines)
- drainage survey
- testing of surface soils (geotechnical for foundations and for hazardous materials if warranted)
- consider drinking water (test if warranted)
- unusual odors
- adequate space for playgrounds, sport areas, parking, sidewalks, bus and vehicle delivery.
- adjacent sites that could negatively impact the site (farms, industries, highways, etc.)
- adjacent sites that could benefit the school (recreation fields, public library, etc.)
3) Interview selected individuals, and take photographs of the site and surroundings.
4) Site Assessment for Reusable Energy – above and below ground
5) Written Report
- include all documents, photos, maps, figures, site description, interviews, references and supporting documentation, contracts, assessments including property value, written evaluation of findings and conclusions.
6) Among potential hazards that need to be avoided are:
soil/groundwater/air contamination from:
- hazardous waste sites
- industrial waste disposal sites
- dry cleaning outlets
- chemical plants
- pesticide users/producers
- chemical spill sites
- scrap yards
- pulp & paper plants
- garbage dumps – solvents, paints, heavy metals
- oil/fuel leaks/spills
- high radon levels
- EMF sources
- farming activities such as crop spraying
- high traffic areas (Minimum advisable distance from a major highway is 1000 ft)
- dust generators such as sawmills, cement and fertilizer plants
An Introduction to Environmental Site Assessment. CMHC
The Healthy School Handbook, Miller, US NEA
Environment Canada website
Citizens for A Safe Learning Environment