Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Geography (Community and Environmental Planning Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

David Shively

Commitee Members

John Matt, Tamara Wall


neighborhood mobilization, neighborhood planning, neighborhood schools, place identity, school district planning


University of Montana


The planning, management and administration of public schools in the United States has been largely ignored by professional planners. School siting issues rarely involve an urban planner’s perspective. In recent years there has been an increase in community participation in planning issues and planners have come to realize that people have valuable perspectives concerning issues of community design. Planners are beginning to take note of what has long been portrayed by environmental psychologists: people’s attachment to place is important to their engagement in their community. The complexity of community planning is such that the planners need to draw upon various fields to create a holistic approach to planning and development. Manzo and Perkins (2006) developed a framework for community planning and development at various scales based upon multiple environmental domains . In large part, this framework is based on place-based relationships. Paxson Elementary School is located in Missoula, Montana. During the 1991-1992 school year, the school was completely torn down and rebuilt. The school is the closest elementary school to the University of Montana and serves approximately 350 children in kindergarten through the fifth grade. The rebuilding of Paxson School was a neighborhood driven effort in that residents really pushed for the district to keep the school in their neighborhood. This qualitative study investigates the perceived value of this school to its neighborhood. In-depth interviews with twelve neighborhood residents, including parents of students enrolled at the school during the period of the rebuild as well as other involved residents, were used to uncover the story of Paxson School. Through content analysis, it became clear that the school was valued highly by neighborhood residents and represented an important part of their sense of neighborhood identity. An additional six interviews, conducted with school officials, provided additional insight into the value of the school to this particular neighborhood. Paxson School was valued not only by the parents in the area, but it was valued by neighborhood residents as well. An additional six interviews, with newer neighborhood residents, support the claim that the school is still valued by the neighborhood.



© Copyright 2010 Tina K. Erickson