The site for a new school building or addition must be approved by the Commissioner of Education prior to the approval of working drawings and specifications for the facility (Education Law, Section 408, Subdivision 3).
The publication School Site Standards, Selection Development (1976) is available from the Office of Facilities Planning. This publication will assist districts in making a proper assessment of the several factors that influence the selection of a school site, as well as the development of the site that is selected. Unless otherwise approved by the Commissioner, a site must provide the following minimum, usable, acres:
- for elementary (grades K-6): 3-acre base, plus 1 additional acre for every 100 pupils or a fraction thereof.
- for secondary (grades 7-12): 10-acre base, plus 1 additional acre for every 100 pupils or a fraction thereof.
An Application for Examination and Approval of a School Site (form EFP-S/71) must be submitted to Facilities Planning for consideration. This submittal should be made before a Draft Environmental Impact Statement is prepared pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act -- SEQR -- (Reference Guide #A.4, May 1990) so that Facilities Planning can determine if the site is approvable. However, actual approval will not take place until the overall project has been properly authorized following completion of the SEQR process.
An important part of the Application for Examination and Approval of a School Site is a site analysis. This is a narrative description of the site, usually prepared by the architect/engineer who is involved with the total project. The site analysis must address the following concerns:
- A brief indication of other sites considered.
- The ranking of the selected site in relation to other sites considered and the factors that led to the selection decision.
- The educational adaptability of the site, with consideration for siting of the building and development of the grounds for the outdoor educational programs and related activities, without excessive initial or development costs.
- Accessibility to the site for vehicles and pedestrians.
- Soil conditions, as shown by subsoil investigations, relating to bearing and drainage.
- Development that conserves natural resources avoids environmental problems and ensures that the site and facilities are consistent with, and contribute to, the school and community environments.
Size of School Sites
Sites for the erection or enlargement of a school building must meet specific standards and be approved by the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner's Regulations, Section 155.1c). Unless otherwise approved by the Commissioner, elementary school sites shall be made up of a three-acre base, plus one additional acre for every 100 pupils or a fraction thereof. Secondary school sites shall be made up of a ten-acre base, plus one additional acre for every 100 pupils or a fraction thereof. In each case, acres means "useable" acres.
Generally, the site standards are not applied when the capital construction project consists of (only) reconstruction or alterations, except when the alterations result in increased student enrollment on the site. When the capital construction project is a new building or an addition of any size, the site standards apply. The Commissioner will not approve a new school building or an addition on an inadequate, substandard site, except where a variance is granted in response to a written request, supported by specific written documentation.
In every case, the staff of the Office of Facilities Planning will be attempting to achieve the best, most practical, and reasonable site possible, taking into account local conditions and limitations, and cost-effectiveness. Therefore, any request for a variance must be carefully and thoughtfully done, so as to provide reasoned justification for granting a variance. A request for a variance of site standards must include at least the following:
- Describe the community setting of the site (residential, commercial, rural, etc., combinations).
- State the size of the site, in acres, and the number of useable acres.
- State the maximum student population(s) -- both elementary and/or secondary -- planned on the site.
- State the number of useable acres that the site is below standards.
- Describe the properties that bound the school site, with references to the points of the compass (street, highway, residential or commercial or undeveloped property, stream, etc.).
- State why the project is necessary at the particular site.
- What is the location of the site in relation to the students who will be served?
- Are other standard-size sites available in the district?
- State what other alternatives were considered and why each was dismissed.
- Describe the availability of contiguous acreage with references to size, costs, possible condemnation, and any public lands that might be used with a formal lease arrangement.
- Describe the availability of nearby, noncontiguous acreage, with references to size, costs, crosswalk hazards, etc., and, if available, how it would be used.
- indicate what positive steps will be taken if the variance were granted to ensure an adequate outdoor physical education program. For example, bussing to, and/or use of other locations, provision of additional indoor physical education facilities, relocation of varsity interscholastic fields and parking areas off-site, and development of physical education facilities in the vacated area(s).
In addition to the narrative request for a variance described above, enclose a map of the school district on an 8 1/2" x 11" maximum sheet size, which shows the location of all district-owned facilities. Also, submit a small-scale plan -- again, 8 1/2" x 11" maximum sheet size -- of the site in question.
This site plan must show property lines, roadways, driveways, parking areas, physical education, and athletic facilities, location(s) of the building(s), adjacent land uses, and topographical features and drainage patterns. All portions of the site having greater than 10% slope (1:10) shall be cross-hatched on the plan.