Cooperative School Agreement Survey
by Paul Swanson Director of Recreation Elk Grove Park District
The IPRS technical assistance series session on park-school cooperation and agreements held in May included a survey seeking to learn the status of park-school cooperative efforts among those park districts and recreation departments in attendance. The survey questionnaire was sent to districts pre-registering for the session. Twenty-seven surveys were returned. Of the 27 districts responding, 13 served more than one school district.
School District served:
The majority of the districts responding varied in population from 5,000 to 40,000.
Approximate population served by Park District
One half of the Park Districts have an agreement with their school districts concerning some aspect of their recreation program.
Although all but one district utilized some facilities in their schools, thirteen of the districts did not have a formal written agreement. The most commonly used areas were gymnasiums, athletic fields, playgrounds, auditorium or theatre, classrooms and tennis courts.
School facilities used by Park Districts
When indoor facilities were used most districts were charged a fee for some part of the service or had some commitment in return to the school district. The following shows the number of districts participating in particular agreements:
1) Pay no fee and have no commitment to provide certain services back to the school district. ........................... 7
For those park districts who had commitments to their school district, some of the services provided included:
school use of park facilities; maintenance and landscaping of grounds and play equipment; maintenance of ball diamonds; mowing grass; snow removal; and joint participation in a school-park site.
In 24 of the districts, park and school district staff and/or Board members did not meet on a regular basis. All but two districts stated that the chief administrators of the school and park districts met but not on a regular schedule.
The frequency of meetings between administrators of each district varied as follows:
The most frequently discussed items at joint meetings were: 1st-Park District use of school facilities; 2nd-School use of park facilities; 3rd-Long range planning, site development, land acquisition, construction and operation of joint facilities.
Two thirds of the Park Districts have a formal lease arrangement of some kind with at least one of their school districts.
Park Districts having a formal lease arrangement of any kind with their school district
Illinois Parks and Recreation 26 September/October, 1976
Approximately half of the Park Districts had been invited by a school district to contribute input concerning the location of a school site or the design of a school. Even more of the Park Districts have invited the input of their school districts into the choosing of a park site or the design/composition of a park.
Ten park districts have participated in the joint acquisition of land or in the construction of a facility with each party contributing a portion of the total cost.
The following are the types of joint purchases that have been entered into by park and school districts.
All the park districts publicized their programs and activities through the schools, using a variety of sources of assistance. Flyers, P.A. announcements, teacher announcements and the PTA newsletters were the most common means of publicity, but several other methods were also utilized. These included publicity in the school newspaper, newsletters sent thru the schools, advertising by the student activity directors and posters.
All of the park districts had some problems in working with their school districts. Communications breakdown was most frequently listed as the main problem followed by cancellation of facility use on short notice, red tape in gaining use of a school facility, and a poor attitude toward Park District activities leading to a lack of cooperation from school staff.
Several park districts admitted that they did not know the school administrative and teaching staff as well as they should, and one felt there was an attitude of complacency involving youth and youth programming. Use of school equipment and lack of school security were rated low on the list of problems.
Almost all of the Park Districts surveyed were able to use their schools to some extent. Most all wanted a better relationship with their school district. The members in attendance at the educational session realized the economics and fringe benefits of school/park cooperative agreements. Although they are able to use their schools for some programming, they felt that better use of the facilities could be achieved if written cooperative agreements were to become commonplace in school/park relationships.
This article was not written to derive any conclusions on actual park/school cooperation, but merely to give information on what some of the districts are doing. Much more study is needed to analyze the actual "state of cooperation."
However, an important suggestion was made during the workshop that we all should remember: "If when you approach a school administrator on a cooperative matter and find little interest, don't give up. Wait for a change and make another approach."
Illinois Parks and Recreation 27 September/October, 1976