Allocating & Utilizing School Space

Instructor: Susan Graziano

Susan has taught high school English and has worked as a school administrator. She has a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn how to effectively allocate and utilize school space for all school programs, including intervention programs, before and after school programs, summer programs, and volunteer programs.

The Juggling Act

Michael is the principal of an elementary school that serves 400 students in preschool through 5th grade. There are many different programs before, during, and after school that require the use of the facility. In addition to a school day schedule which requires the use of all available spaces, the school offers before and after care, enrichment programs for students, summer school programs, and contracts with several local agencies who wish to use the school building for their needs.

As the principal, Michael's primary objective is to serve the students of the school to the best of his ability. With some creative thinking and thoughtful planning, Michael utilizes school space to maximize student achievement. Today, you will learn a bit more about successfully allocating and utilizing school space.


The Master Schedule

The master schedule, the schedule that communicates every teacher's schedule and location throughout the school week, is where every school leader should begin. Creating a master schedule, whether you have access to a digital scheduler or not, can be a daunting task. However, time spent creating a quality master schedule is always time well-spent.

You should consider all of the following when developing a master schedule:

  • Special education needs (This will drive your schedule)
  • Number of instructional minutes (Be sure to follow state and national requirements)
  • Class size
  • Teacher and student locations
  • Teacher preparation times (indicated by teacher contracts)
  • Teacher and student lunch times
  • Elective classes

Maximize your space by using classrooms that are unoccupied throughout the day. You may have a teacher whose class goes to lunch and then an elective class, leaving their classroom empty for 60 minutes. During this time, you could schedule an intervention class, a common prep location for teachers, or a space for your physical therapist to meet with students. You must establish a culture of care and consideration for all spaces in the building. In doing so, you can be confident that all staff members and students will respect all spaces within the building.

Intervention Programs

Regardless of the demographics of your school, it is very likely that you will be providing a variety of intervention programs throughout the year. Intervention programs are designed to cater to the needs of your students and include: supplemental support for math and reading, talented and gifted programs, speech programs, occupational and physical therapy programs, and other special education supports as required by students' individualized education programs (IEPs).

The amount of space you allocate for each of the programs is dependent upon the amount of time required for the program on each of the days of the week. These needs may vary. For example, it is common for physical therapists to visit a school building one or two days per week, depending upon their caseload. On the contrary, some special education students may require a small group setting for the entire school day, every day of the week.

In the case of the rotating physical therapist, you should reference your master schedule and determine if there is space available for him or her to meet with students during the assigned days. If not, there are plenty of ways to get creative. Secluded hallways, converted storage spaces, and outdoor areas (weather permitting) are all possible options.

Before and After School Programs

Before and after-school programs are quite common, especially at the elementary level. Some schools contract out for their before and after-care needs to programs like the local YMCA. Others provide stipends to in-house staff to run the program. Regardless of your approach, you will have to find the space for these programs.

If you have an all-purpose room, that is a great place to start. This is an excellent location for before school programs. If it's available after school, that's wonderful. If it's not, then you will have to consider the number of participating students and the spaces that you have available. Below are some additional options.

  • Available classrooms, separated by age/grade level and staffed appropriately
  • Outdoor recreational areas, weather permitting
  • The library media center
  • Other larger classrooms or spaces (cafeteria, stages, music room, etc.)

You may also wish to develop a rotation of each of the available areas organized by grade level. This not only ensures that you have the available space, but it also helps staff to keep students engaged and on-task.

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