The creation of Shared Use Agreements has emerged in recent years as a cost efficient way to provide opportunities for play and physical activity in the many places in West Virginia that lack them.
Since the passage of legislation in 2015 providing limited liability protection for schools that chose to share their playgrounds and gyms with the general public, 43 schools in West Virginia have passed formal Shared Use Agreements.
The creation of Shared Use Agreements has emerged in recent years as a cost efficient way to provide opportunities for play and physical activity in the many places in West Virginia that lack them. Low-income neighborhoods, in particular, are less likely to have parks, community centers, sidewalks or safe and affordable places to be physically active.
The American Heart Association in West Virginia and the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition are two of a number of West Virginia organizations that have been promoting the creation of Shared Use Agreements so that schools will open up their facilities for outside use.
Of those 43 schools with formal Shared Use Agreements:
- Cabell County – 24 schools
- Jackson County – 13
- Doddridge County – 4
- Marshall County – 1
- Barbour County – 1
In Cabell and Jackson County, Shared Use Agreements were formulated at the county level, hence the high number of schools covered. In these instances, it is left up to each individual principal to develop the form for their school that outside organizations would sign to use the facilities.
The future of Shared Use Agreements in West Virginia
There are many more informal shared use agreements in place between schools and the community. However, advocates are encouraging schools to formalize these agreements, so they stay in place beyond existing personal relationships, and so that schools may qualify for any grants or financial assistance that may be designated to shared use schools in the future.
A bill (HB 4018) was introduced but not passed in the 2016 legislative session that would have created a Shared Use Program Fund to provide short-term grants to help school districts to open their facilities for community recreational use before or after school hours, including evenings, weekends and school vacations.
Research continues to try and capture any other schools and school districts that have formal Shared Use Agreements in place. If you think your school’s Shared Use Agreement may have not yet been recorded, you are encouraged to contact Claire Butler with the American Heart Association at email@example.com, or Jennifer Wells with the Healthy Kids and Families Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org