On January 10, 2017, Councilmember Charles Allen — along with Councilmembers Robert White, Anita Bonds, and DAvid Grosso — introduced a bill to require the Department of General Services (DGS) to convene a task force to identify barriers to and develop recommendations for community use of public school facilities and ot submit those recommendations to the Council. The Task Force must transmit a report of its work and findings to the Council by March 1, 2018.
In reading through the bill, some of the items requested of DGS includes identifying existing barriers to community use of school buildings, determining costs for community use of school buildings, and developing recommendations for a District-wide policy to allow for community use of school buildings. The report’s focus is to be on policies and practices for increasing community use of school facilities for both organized and casual recreation, with an emphasis on promoting healthy activity.
While I’m encourage by this effort and can support its goals, I don’t feel it is going far enough. Based on messages I’ve read on area listservs over the last few years, this appears to be in response — in part — to residents seeking access to swimming pools (such as the one at Dunbar High School), gymnasiums, and other recreation focused areas of new and existing schools. I think such an approach is too narrow and presumes a definition of recreation that is physical in nature. For me, recreation needs to be defined more liberally and broadly, and increasing community access to school facilities for any purpose that builds a stronger community out to be the goal.
One issue that is particularly lacking in many neighborhoods is available community meeting space, where neighbors can come together over local issues and get to know each other as part of the process. With this in mind, I’ll be reviewing the types of spaces available in some of our area schools, and coming up with a list of recommendations to be considered by the task force as they work on their report for the Council.