GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR SCHOOL DEVELOPMENT
Under the guidance of a committee of local citizens, staffs with Cabarrus County, Kannapolis City Schools
and Cabarrus County Schools have formulated a set of guiding principles for school development. These
principles will guide community leaders as they seek new school sites which will integrate with existing
neighborhoods and not encourage development of additional subdivisions in sparsely populated areas that
are costly to serve.
This proactive step to meet the school systems’ needs while also helping to control growth is a result of the
Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners’ decision to create a Community Committee on Education
Capital Planning and Financing. With the belief that public input into this important community issue is
vital for the passing of a school bond, the Board created this Committee inn February after agreeing in
principle to placing a school bond referendum on the November general election ballot. The Committee’s
goal is to review school construction requests, consider alternatives, and make recommendations for which
projects should be pursued and how to finance them.
As the Committee met to discuss such issues as long-term facility needs, school design and placement,
school size and property acquisition, staffs from the school systems and county government were asked to
provide information to help the Committee examine these issues from a cost perspective, an educational
perspective and a community planning point of view. These discussions raised complex issues that are
beyond the expertise of the Committee members. So to expedite its task, the Committee asked the staffs to
formulate recommendations for its consideration.
The staffs from Cabarrus County and the school systems have worked collaboratively to create the
following set of Guiding Principles for School Development. These principles will allow the school
systems to provide the needed facilities to accommodate student population growth while ensuring that
school locations and designs are environmentally sound and work well with the existing communities. The
principles are divided into three categories: site location, site design, and implementation.
1. Site Location: These principles provide guidance for locating schools in areas that are served
by existing public facilities and that provide amenities for existing communities. The overall
purpose is to ensure that school placement does not encourage new growth in locations where
governmental agencies are not prepared to provide necessary services. Furthermore, this
principle encourages schools to serve as multi-use community centers.
2. Site Design: The site design principles help ensure that schools are easily and safely
accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. In addition, there principles call for school
site designs that enhance the streetscape, utilize as little acreage as possible, and incorporate
environmental best practices. This measure will reduce overall land acquisition and
development costs and will remove less land from the tax base.
3. Implementation Principles: The implementation principles provide the needed steps to ensure
that site location and design principles are carried out to the satisfaction of all parties. These
principles note that all agencies that have an interest in school location and construction
decisions be invited to participate in the overall process. These principles also call for a
predictable and repeatable process to ease the decision-making process among staff and
Principles for School Site Locations
1) Place schools adjacent to or within communities
a) Adjacent to existing neighborhood areas
i) Find sites that can be connected by street or pedestrian connection
ii) May differentiate by school type
b) Within new neighborhoods on donated sites
i) Place at the center of a community
ii) Emphasis on location in mixed use developments (i.e. Afton Village)
2) Emphasis on walkable sites
a) Either greenway or sidewalk connection
b) Adjacent to existing housing (use up to a ½ to 1 mile walking distance)
c) Pedestrian friendly street design
d) Walkable sites may help with non-attainment issue
e) Set goal for percentage of school trips we want by foot or bike (e.g. Walkable
Communities Inc. suggests 40% as a goal)
f) May need walk guards to help with street crossings
3) Place schools to create community centers
a) Emphasis on multi-use facilities
i) After hours use as community center, library, night school, etc.
ii) Neighborhood pocket park (joint development with neighborhood to meet
b) Place near center rather than edge of community.
i) Integrate with non-residential development
ii) Place near highest density housing (so more people can walk)
4) Provide good access
a) Provide more than one way to and from a school
b) Place on roads that are pedestrian/bike friendly
i) Streets with lower design speeds are safer for pedestrians and motorists (low
speed = low fatality rate)
c) Place larger high schools and or middle schools on higher capacity roads and/or
i) Would use existing resource for school transportation when feasible
5) Ensure adequate and available utility service
a) Utilities should be in place
i) No utility extensions that will encourage new growth areas
b) Reduced construction cost due to utility extensions
6) Select sites that can reinvigorate declining areas
a) Use public investment to improve areas
b) Reinvest in areas for economic development
Principles for School Site Design
1) Frame the street with the building
a) Smaller building setbacks
i) Easier pedestrian access
ii) Slows traffic
iii) More attractive streetscape
b) Multi-story buildings
2) De-emphasize parking lots
a) Place to the side of the building
b) On-street parking where appropriate
c) Locate so pedestrians do not have to cross parking areas to access facilities or
provide walkways where they do
d) More walkers may mean less need for onsite car stacking
3) Smaller parcel sizes
a) Saves money on property acquisition
b) More efficient use of public land (i.e. keeps more land on the tax roles)
c) Reduced grading costs
d) May obtain more donated sites
i) Developer more willing to give 10% of a project site rather than 20 to 25% of
ii) Donated sites easier to weave into a neighborhood as construction is
concurrent with homes
4) Use affordable “green” design techniques
a) Use landscape materials that need little or no watering
b) Building and landscape placement for energy efficiency
c) Low water toilets
d) Use Low Impact Design techniques for storm water
i) Uses less land
ii) Less expensive to maintain
iii) May cost less than traditional storm water techniques
5) Multi-story Schools
a) May reduce future maintenance costs
b) Require less land
c) May be more compatible with surrounding area
Principles for Implementation
1) Interlocal agreements
a) May need local legislation to define and enforce
b) Create school planning oversight group
c) Coordinate population projections
d) Include all local governments in school planning
e) Relates school capacity to development approval throughout the community
f) Defines on-site and off-site improvements timing and responsibility
g) Co-location of facilities and joint use agreements
h) Defines school, County and municipal role in analyzing the effect of new
development on school capacity
2) School siting ordinance
a) Encourages acquisition of sites with development approval
b) Ties site selection and analysis to these defined principles
3) Joint use agreements
a) Ensures community use of facility
b) Defines proper use of facilities
c) Considers improvements necessary to permit joint use
4) Joint school board and County work sessions
a) Includes both school boards, County staff and elected officials
b) May include municipal staff and elected officials
Principles of Learning Environment in Schools
1) Enhance teaching, learning and accommodate needs of all learners.
a) A model characterized by active student participation rather than passive listening
b) Include strategies as cooperative performance based and inter disciplinary
c) Environment that encourages students to move about, work in groups and be
d) School models that increase emphasis on learning styles and specific needs of all
2) Factors that affect learning include indoor air quality, comfort, lighting, and
a) Classrooms with high levels of day lighting.
b) Classrooms that provide space and resources for physical comfort to allow
students to concentrate.
3) School learning environment should come from a planning and design process that
involves the community.
a) Schools should be planned by the many people who will use them, including
educators, parents, students, senior citizens and members of civic and business
b) Community participation allows for planning, for community diversity to reflect
differences in ages, culture, ethnicity and cultural diversity needs.
c) Community participation creates a shared sense of purpose when they can see
themselves as visionaries, creators and owners.
d) Authentic community engagement can result in more extensive and creative ideas
and trust in public officials and government.
4) Learning environment of a school should provide for health, safety and security.
a) School design should address environmental safeguards and meet applicable
health and safety codes.
b) School designs should pay special attention to air quality and protect children
from harmful substances.
c) Schools should be designed to strategically locate windows, entry access and
gathering places that can foster safety and security by natural surveillance.
d) Attractive, well-designed and well-maintained facilities communicate respect for
the people and activities housed within and contribute to a positive school
e) Schools and classrooms should allow teachers and students to form healthy
relationships and the sense of community needed to promote a safe environment.
5) Learning environment should make use of available resources.
a) School should be designed to take a positive advantage of the physical
environment as a learning experience.
b) Where possible, reforestation, natural landscaping and outdoor environment
should become a part of the learning experience.
c) Schools should make use of optimal current communications technology too
facilitate new methods of instruction, allowing teachers to become guides and
coaches, and allowing students to analyze and evaluate information
d) Schools should be designed and built in a manner to provide efficient energy
consumption with durable and environmentally friendly materials.
e) Schools need to be designed with both city and county planning as a part of the
growth decisions. Smaller neighborhood schools can often help control
community sprawl and extensive busing.
6. Learning environments should be flexible and adaptable.
a) Schools are changing at an unprecedented rate and the best designs allow for
special flexibility. The community needs to be careful not to lock into any single
notion about what a school or classroom should be. Flexibility, open structural
systems allow spaces to be reconfigured over time to best accommodate change.
b) The master plan and educational specifications should be revisited at least once
every five years to ensure facilities meet the needs of the changing world.