In recent years, more K-12 schools in South Carolina and North Carolina have shifted to modified year-round school schedules. While these schedules offer benefits, they also present challenges for construction projects, particularly those aimed at enhancing school infrastructure.
Our team shares the implications of the shift from traditional to year-round schedules and explores the importance of early planning and careful phasing in construction projects for educational institutions.
Statistics on School Schedule Shifts
According to recent data, 64 school districts in South Carolina and approximately 15 in North Carolina have transitioned from traditional to modified year-round schedules. This shift is reshaping the construction landscape in the education sector.
Challenges Arising from Modified Year-Round Schedules
Reduced Construction Windows
K-12 schools on traditional schedules have up to 11 weeks of downtime in the summer to complete construction projects. Schools operating on a modified year-round schedule have shorter periods to complete renovations and improvements. This limitation requires meticulous planning to ensure essential projects are not rushed or compromised.
Planning ahead is critical to the success of any construction project,” says Donald Love, Principal and K-12 Project Manager. “But schools on modified, year-round schedules will have multi-phased projects on very tight timelines requiring more thought and expertise. The larger the project is, the more complex the planning will be.”
Early Phasing Requirements
Modified year-round schools demand a proactive approach to project planning. Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) must be issued earlier in the year to allow for adequate time to phase construction projects. Early phasing is crucial for ensuring equipment and materials are ordered ahead of time so they are delivered and ready to install prior to the limited breaks provided by the modified school calendar.
Impact on Funding Allocation
Many schools are utilizing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSR) funds to finance construction projects. The year-round schedule not only affects the timing of these projects but also requires careful consideration of budget allocation to accommodate phased construction timelines.
Opportunities in the Face of Challenges
Strategic Planning + Coordination
Modified year-round schedules offer an opportunity for schools to adopt more strategic planning and coordination in their construction projects. Early engagement with architects, contractors, and suppliers can streamline the process, ensuring that each phase aligns with the school calendar.
Although challenges exist, the modified year-round schedule provides increased flexibility for construction teams. Phased projects allow for focused attention on specific areas of the school during breaks, minimizing disruptions to ongoing educational activities.
Suggestions for Schools Considering Schedule Changes
Schools considering a switch to a modified year-round schedule must carefully evaluate how it might affect construction projects. A facilities assessment would pinpoint projects requiring further examination to fit into the condensed timeframe. Success in adapting to the modified academic calendar relies on early planning, strategic phasing, and effective collaboration with experienced architecture, engineering, and construction partners.
By recognizing the challenges and opportunities associated with construction projects in modified year-round schools, districts can navigate these changes efficiently, with the goal of enhancing the learning environment while minimizing disruptions. As more districts adopt these schedules, it is crucial for school leaders and construction professionals to work collaboratively, ensuring that renovation and improvement projects contribute positively to the educational experience.
Need advice on planning your next project?
Donald Love Jr, AIA is a Principal and K-12 Project Manager at McMillan Pazdan Smith. With over thirty years of experience, Donnie has performed facilities assessments and the provided architectural design on some of the firm’s largest public K-12 projects.