Solutions for Overcrowding



There are times when a district has a school housing emergency and needs space RIGHT NOW. At other times the need is developing rapidly or the district might not have the resources to build new or purchase portable classrooms. The purpose of this interactive article is to identify options and to assist in the planning processes required to implement the desired options. We will begin with some of the alternatives identified in the literature and expand to those innovative ideas being tried by practitioners in the field.


School districts have relied on portable (movable) buildings to solve housing needs for many decades. Production of these facilities can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time and they can be moved around to meet temporary needs. These buildings are usually built using residential construction standards, but are then used as standard school rooms, often for many years.


By extending the school day a few hours before and after the regular time, students can be scheduled on a staggered start basis freeing up classrooms at certain times of the day. This is especially helpful for dedicated labs and other specialty rooms at the high school level. Pushing to the extreme, some schools have even scheduled night classes. This option seems to work best in a slow-growth situation where a few extra classrooms are needed until other measures can be taken.


The ultimate in extended hours is the double-shift schedule. In this plan, two schools share one facility with half of the students coming early in the day and the second group comes in the afternoon. Schedules are often cut a little short in these plans with no students having a complete day. Various options for faculty have been tried with the most common being a totally separate staff for each of the two groups of students. Some districts have allowed teachers to earn extra pay by teaching more than a full shift.


A common practice when emergency conditions exist, the use of leased space in public or private community facilities is now being considered for special programs such as career learning centers (for example high school health career classes in a hospital). Churches, museums, store fronts, office buildings and empty buildings of many descriptions have all been pressed into service as school space at various times.


Multi-track year-round schedules extend the capability of a facility to house students by utilizing the space during a portion of the summer and staggering the students actually in attendance at any given time. Most often used at the elementary level, these schedules have been used extensively in areas where enrollment growth exceeds the district’s ability to finance new construction.


Although summer academies do not add room in emergency situations, they can alleviate a space crunch at the high school level. Credit-producing classes are offered in the summer to relieve crowding of classrooms during the school year. Where labs and shops are in short supply this plan can be particularly helpful. Students who earn enough credits in this way may be able to graduate early, reducing overall pressure on the facility.


High school credit classes are becoming more and more available on the internet. Credits earned this way reduce pressure on the school while allowing early graduation. For small schools, virtual classes can provide courses not available at the school site.


Public entities such as city government, community or four-year colleges, hospitals, utility districts and others may have classroom or training spaces that can be used on a temporary basis. City parks departments sometimes have gym and playfield spaces available for school use.

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