An Educational Master Plan is an important business planning document for a District, and it provides a basis for making sound facilities management decisions. The master planning process allows for school administrators to examine the condition and usage of their buildings.
Outcomes may include maintenance, remodeling, upgrading or replacement of facilities. The Master Plan should include a timeline and prioritization of what needs to be accomplished, along with short- and long-range planning solutions.
A successful Master Plan is designed to be used as a roadmap and should be reviewed and updated every three to five years. This is due to the ever-changing “landscape” of education and the various factors upon which the analysis is based. The frequency of review and update also permits (in theory) smaller adjustments to the trajectory of findings and solutions instead of larger change and modification.
The physical site and building condition should be evaluated as one of two “pillars” of master planning. The other “pillar” is the educational space and condition adequacy aspect of the facilities. Criteria for evaluating the physical buildings consists of architectural, mechanical, electrical and accessibility aspects. Educational planning criteria include the ability of the spaces to accommodate active learning concepts and current curriculum. Student enrollment increases or decreases should also be included as part of the evaluation of spaces.
Another important aspect of Master Planning is to understand Capital Renewal. Buildings and building components have various useful life expectancies. A Master Plan will identify these as part of the short- and long-range planning process.
A typical Educational Master Planning process is led by the Board of Education with community engagement and input. The Board and community are supported by an Architectural team experienced in Educational Master Planning and in the design and construction of educational facilities. District Board members, faculty and staff are a resource to any community group and essential to informing the planning team and community regarding the curricular requirements. Community and School District aspirations and goals on behalf of their students and community guides the planning process at a high level. On a more granular level:
- Class size (number of students in a classroom) guides capacity calculations;
- Curriculum guides the process in terms of the size, type, number of spaces and their adjacencies; and
- After hours community use dictates flexibility considerations for use of portions of the building and their proximity and convenient access to the community.
At EUA, our process includes great emphasis on the gap analysis of the two “pillars” of planning or on the facilities relative to supporting the curriculum and educational program. At the core of the planning process, spaces are reviewed for size, adjacency and appropriateness to support current educational practices, curriculum and future District goals.
An Educational Master Planning process provides a District with a short- and long-term current view of their facilities and becomes an important decision-making document. The final Master Plan provides a basis of decisions of what to do and what not to do, while exploring various scenarios to try to establish the most “elegant” solution to suit the school district needs. This “elegant” solution refers to an option (or options) that provide the District with the greatest opportunity and flexibility given both the short-term and long-term costs to achieve their goals.