Process Steps


In some instance, changes needed to better support academic programs can be simply a matter of buying new equipment or replacing furniture. More often, however, such changes require renovation or new construction.

In anticipation of renovating existing space or building new space certain basic procedures must be followed to insure that the end product will satisfy the needs of those who initiated the project. There is rarely a second chance to correct mistakes, so the time spent in the Planning Process is an extremely worthwhile investment for any project regardless of its size.

Planning Committee

In the outset, a Planning Committee should be formed representing both teachers and administrators. The Planning Committee’s first task should be to define the project assumptions. They should reflect the school’s mission and vision for the future as well as the goals of the affected departments.

The committee should focus on addressing these four essential questions:

  • What do we want our students to know and be able to do?
  • How should they learn (how do we want to teach)?
  • What type of teaching and support facilities will be required?
  • What are the school’s priorities?

The program, curriculum, and pedagogy that will be used by the departments affected by the project must be central to the discussions. Excluding any of these aspects from the planning is apt to result in a quick fix that will neither fit into the broader school picture, nor provide the space that will be required to teach the desired material in the desired style.

Ideally, the Planning Committee should consist of from 7 to 9 people. The members of the committee should be some combination of teachers and administrators. Involving parents and student representatives can also be beneficial, and private schools should consider including a trustee. If the majority of the committee is composed of teachers, then care should be taken to extend school representation by including teachers from other disciplines not associated with the project.

Some schools may require two committees. The first, described above, would focus specifically on the program and facility requirements of the science, math, or technology education project. The second committee, smaller but also composed of teachers and administrators, would focus on integrating the project into the broader context of the school’s mission, program, and culture.

Committee Chair — The Project Shepherd

The success of the planning process depends as much on the person chosen to chair the Planning Committee as on the committee itself. The Chair, also called the Project Shepherd, has two major responsibilities. The first is administrative — scheduling meetings, presiding over discussions, and generally managing the process. The second, and more important responsibility is to ensure forthright communication between the committee, teachers, and the broader school community.

The Project Shepherd should be actively involved from the beginning steps of planning, through facility programming, through the architectural design process, and into the construction phase. In this role, which is essentially concerned with communication, the Shepherd will be the consistent voice and advocate for the user groups involved, over the duration of the project.


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