School Sites and Acreage

The State of Utah recommends that middle schools be housed on at least 20 acres of land–something attainable only on the outskirts of cities. Much of this acreage is not productive classroom space but used for massive parking lots and grassy fields that see only a few hours of use per day but require constant watering and mowing.

Frontier Middle School in Eagle Mountain, Utah. Notice the large parking lot needed because it is so far away from where people actually live. Good luck maintaining all that grass.
Desert Hills Middle School in St. George, Utah. Good on them for not trying to keep the grass green in the summer–it’s a waste in desert climates. Another parking lot larger than needed.
Hurricane Middle School in Hurricane, Utah. Good on them for limiting grass. Too much space dedicated to parking that is only full during the most exciting sporting events.

On the other hand, LEED for Cities recommends a maximum of 10 acres for a middle school. This encourages school siting in dense, mixed-use neighborhoods. A greater number of smaller schools provides students with the opportunity to walk to school. Some research even indicates that children perform better in smaller schools compared to mega-schools. These schools can also serve as community gathering spaces as does Dixon.

Clayton Middle School in Salt Lake City, Utah sits on nine acres. The neighboring church building could serve as overflow parking during large evening events. Dixon has that same opportunity.
Dixon sits on nine acres (of which PCSD owns 7.33) and provides so much parking that they decided to stick a medical clinic in the parking lot! On-street parking and the neighboring church parking lot (potential) serve as overflow parking during events. The field is over three acres and provides enough space for current PE programs.
VCBO’s Option 1B for Dixon Middle would provide both a district office in the 1931 section and a brand new 150,000 square-foot 3-story school on the north side of the property. Just enough green space for a full-sized soccer field, and track. Too much parking for current demand–but we’ll overlook that to keep it on-site.

“In many cases, school boards choose sites that are out of step with the overall community planning goals and requirements. But the report laid partial blame for runaway sprawl school development on [one] widely accepted standard used to make decisions about where and whether to build a new school: minimum-acreage guidelines.” 

We must not let the pressures of building sprawling “mega-schools” take Dixon from the core of our city.

Read Smart Growth’s article on school siting and case for smaller schools over mega-schools here.

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