Back in the day, local public schools defined the city of Seattle, says essayist Knute Berger, who writes, "The first question Seattleites used to ask each other was "Where did you go to school?" They'd answer Franklin, Garfield, Rainier Beach, Ballard, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Queen Anne. It was short-hand for telling them all about yourself...it was the starting point for establishing common ground."
Berger contends mandatory busing policies changed that social fabric. While many cities, including Seattle, have dropped busing polices, now is the time to re-establish schools as neighborhood hubs.
Converting school assignment policies to place students in neighborhood schools eliminates choice, a bad thing for families who want to give their children the best education options possible. Berger says to make a neighborhood schools strategy work, safety issues need to be addressed, affordable housing needs to be made available within walking distance of schools, and streets must be made bike and pedestrian friendly.
These tactics are hallmarks of neighborhood sustainability efforts. By making neighborhood schools better places, cities are improved for all citizens.