45179_towardssaferschoolconstruction_0 (2015) - Page 59

Site assessment and selection In community-based school construction, local communities are often directly involved in providing a school site. In fact, often the school management committee needs to identify a site, through direct purchase or donation, before implementing agencies provide support. At other times, government agencies transfer allocated public land to a committee for the use of a school. In either case, site options may be remote or dangerous because the land is in low demand. Stakeholders, communities and committees can avoid the selection of poor sites by contractually agreeing to limit exposure to hazards based on a hazard assessment. When school construction involves adding classrooms to existing schools or rebuilding on an established site, school management committees may not think to evaluate site safety. However, especially in case of rebuilding on an established site, input from hazard specialists helps to identify which hazards are likely to occur over the next several decades. Technical specialists should then evaluate this information to determine if hazard-resistant design and construction sufficiently reduces the risk to students and staff, or if rebuilding at the site is unsafe. Flagging problems early Beyond safety, site selection can impose constraints on school design or increase construction cost. A site with poor soil or a steep slope needs more expensive foundations or extensive levelling. A site with narrow or low-capacity access routes hinders the movement of construction materials. The shape of the site dictates the dimensions and layout of the school. When construction specialists are part of the school management committee or serve as local resource persons, they can help flag potential problems before construction begins. IN CONTEXT Some gifts are not free Land tenure is important to consider in communitybased school cons truction. School buildings cannot provide a safe and functional educational space if the land they are built on is later claimed for other purposes. In El Salvador, many school sites are seemingly donated by wealthy patrons when in reality they have been given as a loan. Upon the death of a patron, heirs may reclaim the land or demand rent at a moment’s notice, putting children out of school and burdening the state with unexpected costs. Direct purchase and government appropriation provide the most straightforward path to secure land tenure. In other cases, long-term lease or use agreements may provide some security when school sites are donated. Formal agreements reduce the chance that the owner will reclaim the site after school infrastructure investments have been made. In informal settlements or slums, where securing formal rights to a site is impossible, school management committees can seek written commitments. Nearby households and local and regional governments can agree to refrain from building or encroaching on the proposed school site over a set number of years. SECTION III: PLANNING Site safety is the main constraint on adequate school placement. Selecting a safe school site is a technical decision where hazard exposure, accessibility and availability are optimised. Program managers should facilitate a dialogue between school management committees, the wider community, donors and implementing agencies and government actors. They should especially create dialogue with technical specialists to facilitate the best option for site safety. When a safer schools program focuses on retrofitting existing school buildings, site selection takes on different complexities. While school sites are pre-defined, selecting the best buildings for a safer school program requires the assessment of a large number of buildings to identify the most critically weak structures. The case study at the end of this section considers one such process (see the Community Planning Stage case study). Community members walk a transect to identify local hazards together. These hazards will be placed on a map in order to select safer sites for reconstruction. Photo: Seki Hirano/CRS. 50