A vital element in the development of the Little Rock Facilities Master Plan is an analysis of the student capacity of each school. By comparing the capacity with current and projected enrollment, the utilization of each school was determined.
A typical definition of “school capacity” is the number of students that can be accommodated in a building considering the physical, operational and programmatic variables. The degree to which the variables are quantified defines the “tightness” of the capacity calculation.
There are several key components to each of the variables. The physical variable component most often assessed is the number and type of teaching stations in the facility. The operation component that typically influences capacity is specialty program offerings. Finally, the components of the programmatic variables that are usually factored into a capacity calculation are student/teacher ratios and scheduling.
This is not to diminish the fact that the other variables can and do play a role in determining the capacity of a building. Physical variable components such as the size of classrooms and support facilities including the kitchen and lunchroom influence capacity. Policies affecting the operation of a building and educational program offerings are components of the operational and programmatic variables that also affect capacity.
The typical method of computing capacity is straightforward. The capacity of a school facility is driven by the number of classrooms or other spaces in which children are educated (teaching spaces), multiplied by the preferred number of students per teacher (student/teacher ratio). That capacity is adjusted based on the number of spaces needed to support specialty program offerings which are most often self-contained classrooms for students with special needs which operate at a lower student/teacher ratio. The capacity is further adjusted by scheduling considerations such as the school calendar or extra class periods during the school day.
The key to determining whether a space is counted as a teaching station lies in the daily use of that space. At the elementary level, only classrooms are counted as teaching stations. The school typically has other spaces such as an art or music room in which students are taught. However, it is assumed when an elementary class moves from its assigned space/core classroom to the art room, no other group moves into that classroom. After that art class is completed, the students return to their classroom and another class moves into the art room. The point is that to count any space other than the main classroom as a teaching space, for the purposes of determining capacity, leads to an inflated number.
The exact opposite is true at the middle and high school level. As students move from classroom to classroom throughout the day, other students can move into those spaces. Therefore, any space with an assigned teacher is considered a teaching space for the purposes of capacity analysis. This includes classrooms, labs and the gym.
The only caveat is that it is virtually impossible to program the use of a middle or high school so efficiently that every space is used every period throughout the school day. Thus, the number of teaching stations multiplied by the student/teacher ratio is adjusted by a utilization factor.
While the goal is 100% utilization, in practice 75% is a realistic utilization factor when high schools function on a block schedule. Teachers at the high schools teach three out of four periods a day. Therefore the utilization factor is 3/4ths or 75%.
At the Little Rock middle schools, which utilize team teaching, planning periods need to be provided. Teachers are typically in the classroom five out of eight periods a day with the other periods devoted to planning either individually or with their team. Thus, 5/8ths of a day or 62% is the utilization factor at the middle school level. If teachers do not have an alternate space for their planning periods then a higher utilization factor is difficult, if not impossible to achieve.
However, Little Rock, as in many other districts, classrooms, particularly in older buildings tends to be considerably smaller than in buildings of a more recent vintage. Therefore, an adjustment to the capacity of those smaller classrooms needs to be made. The methodology used to calculate capacity for the Facilities Master Plan is as follows:
- Determine and count the number of teaching stations – The use of each space in the facility was determined and the number of teaching stations was counted. At the elementary level the number of teaching stations is the number of regular classrooms including self-contained classrooms for children with special needs that are assigned to those classrooms for a full day. At the middle and high school level all spaces with assigned teachers were counted as teaching stations. This included regular classrooms, art, music and science rooms as well as gyms and self-contained classrooms for special needs students. Gyms, since they typically have two classes at once were counted as two teaching stations.
Resource rooms where children are taken out of a regular class for special assistance such as with a math or language arts tutor were not counted.
Spaces that could be a classroom, or were a classroom but have been converted to another use such as administration or community programs were typically not counted as teaching stations but were noted. These spaces could be converted to classrooms, if necessary, and at the point at which they became classrooms would then add to the capacity.
The exception was when there is a large block of classrooms available. This occurs at Washington Elementary School where several classrooms in a wing of the building that are currently used for non-academic purposes. Those spaces could be reassigned as academic classrooms. Since there are a large number of classrooms readily available, those spaces have been counted as part of the Washington Elementary School Capacity.
- Gross capacity determination – The number of teaching stations were multiplied by the appropriate student: teacher ratio. The following ratios were used.
- Pre-K and Kindergarten – 20 students
- 1st to 3rd Grades – 25 students
- 4th to 12th Grades – 28 students
- Self-contained Classrooms – 10 students
Multiplying the number of teaching stations by the proper ratio provided the gross capacity of each facility.
- Net capacity determination – The size of the classrooms and other teaching stations is a key influencing factor relative to capacity. This is especially true in older buildings such as Central High School. With many smaller classrooms and other teaching stations assigning a capacity based only on multiplying the number of teaching stations by the student: teacher ratio is unrealistic. Smaller classrooms and teaching stations are defined as any classroom space less than the desired size which is 1,050 sq. ft. at the elementary level; 850 sq. ft. for classrooms at the middle and high school levels; and, 1,200 sq. ft. for labs. For those smaller spaces the capacity was determined by dividing the square footage of the space by 30 square feet per student. Therefore, a 600 sq. ft. classroom at the high school level would have a capacity of 20 students not 28 students.
For any classroom space at or greater than the desired size the teaching station was multiplied by the appropriate ratio. Despite a space being larger the student:teacher ratio was still applied. Therefore, the size of the space, if it exceeds the desired size does not affect capacity.
- Functional capacity determination – The last step in establishing the facility capacity is to multiply the net capacity by the appropriate utilization factor. As previously stated those factors as 100% at the elementary level, 62% for middle schools and 75% for high schools. Using those factors provides the functional capacity of each facility.
The final capacity of each facility was compared with the current and future enrollment to determine the overall utilization. This information is shown on the following sheet.
Demographic and Capacity Methodology - 6/04/14