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Preservation of Historic Schools Gains International Prominence: April 19th is Historic Schools Day
Council of Educational Facility Planners, International introduces A Primer for the Renovation/Rehabilitation of Older and Historic Schools and Schools for Successful Communities: An Element of Smart Growth
Washington, D.C. (April 18, 2005) – The nation’s older and historic neighborhood schools have touched the lives of millions of Americans. Today, these treasured national icons and stalwart symbols of community pride are fast-disappearing. Since listing the nation’s historic schools to its annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has worked to preserve the thousands of schools in danger of gross alteration, neglect, or demolition.
From Stevens School in Washington, D.C., Corning Free Academy in New York, and Salazar Elementary in New Mexico, to Alexander II Elementary in Georgia, Broadwater Elementary in Montana, and PS 109 in East Harlem, historic neighborhood schools are being demolished or deserted. Often the victims of deferred maintenance, consolidation, development pressure, inadequate government funding, policies promoting the construction of mega-schools in outlying locations, and an often misplaced belief in the superiority of new school construction, the loss of historic schools has irreparable impacts on communities.
Through a series of cooperative agreements between The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), and the Environmental Protection Agency, CEFPI addresses current concerns about the preservation of historic and older school buildings and the role they play in maintaining community character in three newly released publications.
When a nationwide school building boom began in the late 1990s, CEFPI’s school design and construction guidelines, which have existed since the early 1940s, came under heavy scrutiny by preservationists because of their lack of consideration for older and historic schools. Many of these older schools served as community anchors but were being demolished in favor of new suburban schools that often changed the pedestrian relationship between the neighborhood and school.
The prevalence of suburban schools and the consequential threat to historic school buildings prompted the National Trust for Historic Preservation to list Historic Neighborhood Schools on its list of America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places in 2000, and to publish Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl, which details the policies leading to consolidation and replacement of older and historic schools. In expressing its concern to consider older and historic schools within today’s educational programming and services, CEFPI re-evaluated their guidelines. In 2004, the organization released a new planning guide for new schools, entitled Creating Connection: The Guide for Educational Facility Planning, which emphasizes the importance of considering all district resources and authentically engaging the community in the planning process of any capital construction project.
“Older and historic schools provide cultural continuity for generations past and present. Tied through a shared educational experience, communities look to their schools for sustenance,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “CEFPI’s Primer represents an important addition to the body of knowledge and sound practices leading to schools that work for education and the community at large. The National Trust commends CEFPI for its thoughtful foresight and willingness to include preservation and rehabilitation in their carefully orchestrated guidelines. This publication will play an integral role in spreading awareness about the benefits of preserving historic schools to communities and to future generations.”
In Honor of Historic Schools Day on April 19, 2005, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and The 2003-2004 National Secondary Social Studies Teacher of the Year Geraldine Hastings have produced lesson plans that use the year, or the decade, in which a school was built as the starting point for a project that makes history come alive for students. A national forum for all participants to post their projects on line will be provided by CEFPI. To view the lesson plans or for more information about Historic Schools Day, visit www.nationaltrust.org/issues/schools <http://www.nationaltrust.org/issues/schools>> .
A Primer for the Renovation/Rehabilitation of Older and Historic Schools and Schools for Successful Communities: An Element of Smart Growth can be purchased through CEFPI’s Web site www.cefpi.org/pubs.html <http://www.cefpi.org/pubs.html> .
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the irreplaceable. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize communities. Its Washington, DC headquarters staff, six regional offices and 26 historic sites work with the Trust’s 270,000 members and thousands of local community groups in all 50 states. For more information, visit the Trust’s web site at www.nationaltrust.org <http://www.nationaltrust.org/> .
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