1426 N Quincy St
Arlington, VA 22207
Sunday, February 14, 2016

Facilities Planning

Capacity Planning FAQ

This page contains information and resources about the 2013-14 Capacity Planning process. Current updates and information can be found on the More Seats for More Students page.

General Information 

What is capacity?
Capacity is the number of students that can be accommodated in a building for instruction in a maximally efficient manner. APS capacity numbers are based on a series of variables including room use, planning factors, class size and utilization rate (secondary schools). Planning factors determine a ratio for teaching staff to students (i.e., Kindergarten classrooms have one teacher and one assistant for up to 24 students).

Capacity numbers are governed by state standards, but also reflect a school system’s values and the resources the district has available.  Class size policy, as determined by the School Board, directly affects a building’s capacity total.

How is it determined?
Historically, capacity numbers have been calculated differently for elementary and secondary schools. Elementary schools’ capacity is generated by multiplying the number of classrooms times by a planning factor (23.33 students) and then adding in PreK and Special Education programs which have a particular capacity number (VPI: 16, Montessori: 23, PreK Special Education: 8). At APS, we calculate capacity only for rooms that hold full classes of students all day. We do not calculate capacity for art, music, PE, ESOL/HILT, or pull-out special education rooms.

Secondary schools’ capacity is generated by multiplying the number of rooms of a certain use by the capacity assigned to that room use (21 for core classes, higher for electives) times a 6/7th utilization factor (to account for the one period a day that a room would not have students in it).

Why does it change?
As populations grow and change, APS may determine, based on staffing needs, a need for changing a room’s use. If a room is converted from a non-capacity bearing function (e.g., a computer lab) to a K-5 instructional space, a new classroom’s worth of capacity is added to the total building calculation.
APS Enrollment and Projected Growth
Since 2006, APS’ enrollment has grown by 2,601 students, or 15%.

Projections of student enrollment are produced twice a year, after examining a wide range of projection models (see chart, below).  Fall projections of the upcoming six school years are published every November, based on the membership report of September 30th. These numbers are used to create the Superintendent’s Budget for the next fiscal year.  Spring updates to the projections are then produced every February, and use the January 31st enrollment counts to fine-tune the fall projections.  It is from the spring projections that staffing decisions for the next fiscal year are made.

How has APS’ capacity changed in response to enrollment growth?
In order to meet the demand for more seats, APS has implemented several strategies over the past several years.
Reconfiguration of space inside of buildings
First, space inside of school buildings has been examined in order to determine if additional classrooms could be reconfigured. Second, APS has begun converting many computer labs to classrooms, and instituting wireless, laptop labs.
Class size and utilization rates
Class size has been increased at both the elementary and secondary levels. Additionally, utilization rates (at the secondary level) have been increased from 5/7 to 6/7 to gain seats.

These strategies, in conjunction with recent construction projects, have resulted in the addition of 2,531 seats from 2005 to today. These seat break down as 929 in elementary schools, 684 in middle schools and 918 seats in high schools.

Outside of buildings, maintenance staff has installed relocatable classrooms (trailers) to house a greater number of students. Last year, for example, 28 classrooms were installed in relocatables around the County, bringing the APS total to 83 classrooms or space for over 1800 students. In 2011, 50% of APS schools had relocatable classrooms outside of buildings serving 8% of our population.

 While these options are useful tools for APS, their use must be considered in the context of each school’s needs and educational program. Because core spaces (libraries, cafeterias, gymnasiums, etc) are subject to limits in terms of capacity and scheduling, each capacity option has its limitations and must be evaluated in terms of impact on the school-wide community.

How does APS intend to house the projected increased population over the next many years?
In 2009, the School Board adopted the Progressive Planning Model (PPM) framework, a step-wise approach to developing additional capacity throughout the system. The PPM framework was developed after much community input and through a study with MGT of America, planning consultants. Through a series of community meetings, summer chats and a web survey, staff engaged the public in a dialogue about pros and cons of capacity solutions and determined an initial focus of achieving capacity without immediate boundary changes.

The PPM framework outlined three methods for achieving greater capacity and balancing the utilization of that capacity across the system:

  1. Better using capacity throughout the system
    1. Boundary moves
    2. Relocataion of programs
  2. Changing internal space use within schools
    1. Scheduling changes (6/7 model and longer high school days)
    2. Increasing class size
    3. Moving “specials” (i.e., art and music) to carts
  3. Adding physical space
    1. Relocatables
    2. Additions
    3. Reconstruction
    4. New buildings
    5. Leased space

 Using the Progressive Planning Model framework adopted by the school board in 2009, APS has already implemented many options for increasing capacity. Those strategies, described above, have included:

  • Class size increases
  • Increased utilization rate at secondary schools (6/7 scheduling and longer school day)
  • Conversion of non-capacity classrooms into capacity-bearing rooms and putting programs on carts
  • Relocatable (trailer) classrooms

Relocatables will continue to be relied on heavily for additional classrooms needs in the future. Current projections indicate that APS will install 25 relocatable classrooms a year for the foreseeable future in order to manage demand. 

Additionally, to better balance enrollment between schools, APS has increased admissions to countywide schools including ATS, Campbell, Claremont, Drew, Key, and HB Woodlawn for the 2011-12 school year and beyond.

Decision Lens Process
APS has exhausted many of the initial steps of the PPM which involve converting internal space into capacity-bearing classrooms, changing scheduling practices, and adding relocatable classrooms.

 To assist the School Board in developing a Capital Improvement Plan which includes capacity-building projects, APS engaged Decision Lens. The Decision Lens software and process helped evaluate capital solutions based on pre-determined School Board criteria The goals of using Decision Lens included:

  • Create a transparent framework around very complicated decision making process
  • Enable clear articulation of strategy and alignment of solutions to objectives
  • Provide decision makers with scenarios around different funding strategies
  • Rapidly adapt to changes in priorities and funding circumstances should they arise

The Decision Lens process occured in several steps:

  1. Worked with the School Board to develop criteria model by which solutions will be evaluated (completed July 2011).
  2. Developed a solutions catalog (all potential capacity planning solutions) with input from CCPTA surveys to all schools. The list of solutions was refined in conjunction with a community and staff Evaluation Committee.
  3. Engaged the larger Arlington community in a conversation about the process and let them know which APS sites will undergo further feasibility analysis.
  4. Conducted feasibility studies with outside architectural consultants to provide site data and cost estimates.
  5. Board ranked solutions using the Decision Lens model.
  6. Superintendent presented CIP to the School Board in May, 2012, using results of ranking and analysis.

 In completing this prioritization process, staff analyzed and quantified the impact of each option in order to compare the effect against the values determined by the School Board. The School Board approved the funding for three additions at elementary schools plus two new elementary schools.

Over the last several years, APS has been aggressive in its approach to maximizing the capacity of existing facilities. However, even with the processes and steps outlined above, APS will continue to require creative solutions to the ever-growing demand for space in our schools.
Last Modified on February 4, 2014