Opening a new school, growing from one to many schools, or moving buildings for existing schools requires careful management of several key activities. We have compiled some dos and don’ts for you to consider for these key areas:
There are a variety of models for charter schools and writing a charter. We recommend the following resources:
- For California
Schools require buildings, and buildings are not easy to find, build, buy, renovate, or move into and out of. Here are some tips for how to go about facility development for your school or schools.
1. Do hire professional facility development/management help as soon as possible
Using professionals to help manage the facility acquisition process as early in the process as possible will save both time and money. Whether remodeling an old parochial school, converting a warehouse into a school, or building a brand-new facility, having construction management and development expertise can save 10-30% of the cost of a facility over its lifetime.
Look for a facility development/management professional (either as full-time employees or as consultants) with:
A track record for acquiring commercial real estate within a budget;
Construction management experience, preferably with education facilities (i.e. experience as a education facility project manager, skill managing construction teams including architects, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors);
Project management experience delivering school-size projects on time and on-budget.
Financial skills managing multi-million dollar construction and facilities budgets;
Facilities management experience, particularly managing commercial facilities with as many square feet as your future schools.
2. Do hire construction team contributors with education facility experience
It saves time, money, and effort when the construction team has education facility experience. This includes architects, engineers, contractors and construction managers. It sounds simplistic, but plenty of construction industry professionals can be very convincing in describing how their residential/industrial/retail experience is transferable to schools.
3. Do finalize sources of facilities capital as soon as possible
Finalizing facility capital sources will enable you to establish a budget. A firm budget enables your facility manager and his team to accelerate their efforts because financing helps define the boundaries for different facility options.
1. Don’t try to save money by skimping on expertise.
Any facility development option you choose is probably going to be a six to seven figure investment—not including your investment of time and energy. Real estate development requires a very different skill set than other businesses, so general business experience is not as readily transferable as you might hope. Similarly, a recent kitchen remodel does not qualify someone to remodel your school building! The money spent to hire a good facilities management professional will pay for itself almost immediately.
2. Don’t rush the job
Facilities development takes time. Rushing the selection and negotiation process (because you are desperate) usually results in a higher price. Rushing the remodeling or construction process will likely sacrifice both quality and budget. Everything will NOT go as expected—so plan a buffer of time and create contingency plans for opening school in temporary locations if necessary.
3. Don’t underestimate the costs
Your facilities advisor/manager should have skills at selecting and negotiating for properties that accommodate your location and price requirements. Don’t forget to include improvement costs and ongoing costs of operations in your calculations. A super-low rent is no bargain if it requires you to sink hundreds of thousands in improvements, or if utilities costs will end up being astronomical.
4. Don’t forget to define your facility requirements ahead of time
Clearly define the requirements of the education program before determining the facility needs. This will help you avoid building facilities with problems such as: rooms too small for proper use, or equipment that is inadequate (e.g. building wiring that doesn’t support computer technology).
It can be hard to know where to start looking for funding. Try these resources to jump start the process: