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California Code of Regulations for Schools

Instructor: Jessica Keys
Read on for more information about the California Code of Regulations governing the state's educational buildings and learn what school leaders must do to provide a safe, accessible environment for their students.

California Code of Regulations: An Introduction

The California Code of Regulations is a comprehensive body of laws containing 28 titles. Each title covers laws that pertain to a specific agency, industry or other state issue, such as public health and utilities, agriculture, natural resource management and crime prevention.

Title 5 covers all regulations that pertain to education. In this particular article, we'll be narrowing the focus, taking a look at how California governs the standards for school facilities and equipment

Where Can I Read these Regulations?

The full content for this section of the California Code of Regulations may be found on the Office of Administrative Law website - govt.westlaw.com/calregs/Index. The school facilities and equipment section can be found in:

  • Title 5. Education; Division 1. California Department of Education; Chapter 13. School Facilities and Equipment; Subchapter 1. School Housing

The California Department of Education's website, at www.cde.ca.gov, also contains information, best practices fact sheets, research, support resources, an email newsletter and more (under Learning Support).

California Regulations: School Facilities and Equipment - Sections and Key Points

Article 1. General Standards

Section 14001. Minimum Standards

All educational buildings should be planned in a way that maximizes safety, enrollment and comfort, while minimizing maintenance. These buildings must comply with federal, state and local fire and structural safety codes (found in Title 24 of the Code of Regulations) in addition to the regulations found in the following section.

Article 2. School Sites

Section 14010. Standards for School Site Selection

When selecting a school site, the school district must consider things like available acreage, enrollment and population density, economic feasibility and bussing expenses. All school sites must be a certain distance from power lines, and the district must also take into account any potential environmental, traffic or industrial hazards in the vicinity. The school site must be easily accessible for pedestrians, waste disposal and emergency services, and should be in a location that encourages the usage of parks, libraries, museums and other facilities.

Section 14011. Procedures for Site Acquisition - State-Funded School Districts

Section 14012. Procedures for Site Acquisition - Locally-Funded School Districts

These two sections outline the numerous steps that a school district must take to obtain a property title for educational use. These steps include evaluating the property for compliance issues with the above section, preparing an environmental impact report, holding public hearings and more.

Article 4. Standards, Planning and Approval of School Facilities

Section 14030. Standards for Development of Plans for the Design and Construction of School Facilities

This is a large section that encompasses several standards intended to make schools safer, accessible and effective environments for learning. They cover:

A. Educational Specifications - The building will be designed according to grade level, enrollment, teaching methodology and community needs.

B. Site Layout - All traffic features, such as bus loading areas, drop-off areas, crosswalks and parking lots, should be designed to maximize student safety and equal access.

C. Playground and Field Areas - The facility provides a variety of supervised outlets for physical education. These can include blacktop courts, field areas and indoor facilities. Joint use with a neighboring park is an option.

D. Delivery and Utility Areas - These areas must be directly accessible from the street, but located away from playgrounds, fields and areas of high foot traffic as well as bus/parent pick-up activity (unless protected by a fence).

E. Future Expansion - Sites should be designed to anticipate growth and expansion without major disruption to the original structures. Add-on areas (temporary or permanent) are pre-allocated in the site plans.

F. Placement of Buildings - Each building should be designed in a way that best meets the needs of its students and staff. This would include sensible classroom/office placement, easily accessible restrooms, sufficient parking, adequate security and so on.

G. Classrooms - Classrooms must be adequate in number and size, according to the building's planned enrollment and curriculum. For grades 1-12, all classrooms must be at least 960 square feet (or have written approval for a smaller size). Each classroom must have the appropriate outlets for networking and technology.

H. Specialized Classrooms and Areas - Other types of classrooms, such as small-group areas, kindergarten classrooms and special education rooms, must comply with various size and building regulations. For example, kindergarten classroom areas must be at least 1,350 square feet and include a play yard and restrooms.

I. Laboratories - Any laboratories must be designed for the planned curriculum and include appropriate space and safety features (such as fume hoods, first aid, safe storage, etc.). This section covers science, home economics, industrial/technology and computer laboratories.

J. Gymnasium/Shower & Locker - These areas should be of adequate size and able to accommodate many different activities. For example, if the gymnasium is available for public use after school hours, access to other parts of the building must be secured independently.

K. Auxiliary Areas - This section outlines space, safety and privacy regulations pertaining to other sections of the campus, such as the cafeteria/multipurpose room, administrative offices and the library.

L. Lighting - Windows and light fixtures provide comfortable lighting and avoid glare. The walls and ceilings must be painted in a light color, unless the room's function requires a darker color.

M. Acoustical - The building is designed to allow acceptable sound conditioning. Each room partition minimizes noise from other classrooms, and the ventilation system is not obtrusively loud.

N. Plumbing - The building contains an adequate number of supervised restrooms for staff and students.

O. Year-Round Education - Additional storage space and support must be provided for any school planned for year-round operation.

P. American Disabilities Act - All schools must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Q. Child Care Programs - All schools must allocate space for before- and after-school child care programs.

R. Exemptions - Exemptions may be given to the above standards, so long as the alternative presented by the district does not compromise safety or educational appropriateness.

Section 14031. Plan Approval Procedures for State-Funded School Districts

Section 14032. Plan Approval for State-Funded School Districts

These two sections pertain to the processes a state-funded school district must undergo to have the plans for a new educational building approved by the California Department of Education, after proving the plans follow the standards outlined in the above section.

Section 14033. Applicability of Plan Standards to Locally-Funded School Districts

A locally-funded school district does not need to submit preliminary or final building plans to the California Department of Education (these plans must still be submitted to the Office of the State Architect). However, the building must comply with the standards set in Section 14030 as well as other state educational building codes.

Section 14034. Planning Guides

This section informs the public that The Guide for Planning Educational Facilities (a publication of the Council of Educational Facility Planners) may be used to help develop plans for a new school building.

Section 14035. Abandonment of Inadequate Facilities

When it is determined that the estimated costs of building rehabilitation and modernization justify replacement, the building in question may be recommended for abandonment.

Section 14036. Integrated Facilities

When a school district constructs a classroom for special education, this classroom should be near ''regular'' education classrooms and situated in a way that encourages interaction between all students. Under these guidelines, a facility may be considered integrated. Permission to build a non-integrated facility will only be given if the school district can prove it will transition its special needs students to a ''regular'' school setting or justify non-integration as its only feasible long-term option.

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