Capacity Planning FAQ
This page contains information and resources about the 2015-16 Capacity Planning process. Current updates and information can be found on the More Seats for More Students page.
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 2005, APS’ enrollment has grown by 6,827 students, or 37% in ten years. Between Fall 2015 and Fall 2025, enrollment is projected to increase another 6,655 students or 26%.
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.
Continued increases in enrollment in Arlington’s
schools will likely result in the need for additional
relocatables in the near future while the community
and School Board work on processes to determine
any boundary or capacity changes. APS has begun
purchasing some units (instead of leasing) as more
cost-effective means of providing temporary classrooms for
a short period of time.
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:
- Better using capacity throughout the system
- Boundary moves
- Relocataion of programs
- Changing internal space use within schools
- Scheduling changes (6/7 model and longer high school days)
- Increasing class size
- Moving “specials” (i.e., art and music) to carts
- Adding physical space
- New buildings
- 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
Current projections indicate that APS will deploy relocatable classrooms for the foreseeable future in order to manage demand.
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.