From the Baltimore Sun:
The benefits of students being able to walk to school with their parents or their friends are undeniable. As Joe Burris wrote in his Oct. 15 article, "Trying to get kids to walk to school," the practice makes for healthier kids and healthier communities. Programs like International Walk to School Month, where Maryland is the top participant among Mid-Atlantic states, are helping change behaviors.
But we also need greater attention toward building communities where people can live, work and play in the same proximity. In fiscal year 2008, 40 percent of school construction was outside of existing population centers, the so-called Priority Funding Areas. Typically, few youngsters would be able to reasonably walk to those schools.
Officials and school boards need to design and build new schools as integral parts of designated community growth areas and to reinvest in existing schools in our existing neighborhoods. That's smart growth. Giving families better options to make that walk would save public dollars, the environment -- and a few pounds to boot.
Richard Eberhart Hall, Baltimore
The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning