Planning through the Shared Use of Resources: A Case Study of DeKalb County, Georgia

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Cook, Kirsten
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In today's planning arena, schools are a critical, but often overlooked, piece in discussions about planning for healthy spaces. Schools are significant not only as educational institutions that serve students but also as substantial amenities that can be leveraged as community resources. One specific strategy by which schools can be deployed for such purposes is through shared use agreements, whereby schools and communities resolve, either through an informal or formal contract, to share the use of their facilities. Shared use agreements are an important strategy for both schools and communities to promote the efficient use of resources and to provide mutual benefits from public and private spaces that facilitate physical activity and improve health. Currently, many resources exist for schools to more effectively implement shared use. However, such resources are generally lacking for city governments and planning departments. As this study will demonstrate, these arenas are particularly important targets for initiating shared use, and the lack of advocacy and resources related to shared use in these arenas is particularly problematic. In DeKalb County, Georgia, such advocacy and resources are especially necessary considering the specific needs and context of the schools and communities in this district. Through an examination of the existing literature and a study of DeKalb County specifically, this paper makes a threefold argument, which follows that: 1) community-school partnerships that take advantage of shared use agreements can improve community health and well-being, 2) partnerships will be most effective if initiated by the county and city planning departments, and 3) because this practice is largely lacking in DeKalb County, it necessitates a context-specific resource to guide planners in more effective initiation and implementation.
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