But communities around the country are resolving these issues through what’s known as a joint use agreement: a written contract between a school district and, usually, a city agency, spelling out a formal arrangement that lets the two share the costs and responsibilities.
Joint use agreements are making an impact all over the country:
- In Boston – where many schoolyards were paved over in the 1950s when city leaders realized it would save maintenance costs – joint use agreements have helped reclaim more than 130 acres of asphalt, transforming schoolyards into vibrant new spaces for play and learning.
- In Niagara Falls, NY, joint use agreements were essential in creating a state-of-the-art basketball park and incorporating valuable community programming, including a nationally recognized mentorship program for kids.
- In Mississippi – recently named the most obese state in the nation – a new statewide joint use program has provided school districts with resources for play equipment and other improvements while helping to ease school administrators’ reservations about liability and vandalism.
Although many communities informally agree to share facilities, a well-crafted joint use agreement can help things go smoothly – from coordinating scheduling and staffing to handling maintenance and the possibility of injury.
That’s where Playing Smart comes in. This new toolkit was developed by KaBOOM! and the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Children Obesity to help school staff and other community leaders craft and implement joint use agreements, whether they’re new to the prospect of joint use or looking to institutionalize an informal arrangement long under way.
Playing Smart is a nuts-and-bolts guide to opening school property to the public, complete with model agreement language and success stories from communities around the country. It also provides a comprehensive overview of the most common ways to finance these arrangements, and guidance on how to overcome obstacles that may arise in negotiating and enforcing a joint use agreement.