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Location, Location, Location!

Where is the most ideal location to build your school?

Imagine planning and building a school, and then within a 3 year period your school is encountering challenges. As a school expands beyond the scope of the original 5-year plan it is common to encounter challenges due to that expansion. Whole school scheduling present a challenge, due to the lack of outdoor space for play, or perhaps lunch recess conflicts with physical education classes or the outdoor art/nature/science lesson. The original teachers' planning rooms for each division is being taken over for storage of supplies, books, science equipment and musical instruments.

You may discover about a new highway built right after your school opened now causes bus delays and students arrive to school 30-40 mins late daily or the planned parking spaces for staff and parents for large events has been lost to a sports field or storage area. As oversights become apparent, finding locations with ample space and easy accessibility will pose the most significant challenge for founding schools to consider. As founding schools expand, the challenges become more pronounced.

Think success- think growth when choosing a location.

Choosing a location is one of the most important aspects of starting a new founding school and ensuring its long-term success. Location plays a pivotal role for a school, especially concerning accessibility via local transportation, personal vehicles, and pedestrian routes. Furthermore, factors such as the environmental ambiance of the surroundings, including the presence of green spaces, availability of parking facilities, access to nearby markets, restaurants, and shops, alongside considerations of building design and attracting the appropriate clientele, are equally significant.

Once the business plan, investors, and budget is set, selecting the right location can be the difference between success and disappointment. Your most important step is having a market analysis done in the area you wish to build. This market analysis will give you a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of the competing schools and challenges they are dealing with. The most important part of the SWOT is your demographics. Where do your customers live and work? It’s crucial to choose a location your target market can easily access or frequently visit. Once you have found the area, dig deeper. For example, understanding the area’s zoning laws is crucial. Look at zoning maps so you understand what business activities are allowed. If retail stores, restaurants, bars, or manufacturing sites are nearby, consider the proximity to residential areas, which can be crucial to ensure direct and easy access for foot traffic to reach the school. It's imperative to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the area and stay informed about ongoing city and community development plans.

Why your school's location and building is important?

These factors will help you decide whether or not your school is ideal spot.

Traffic :If you're looking for a stronger campus community and less noise, crowds, traffic, and expense, you might want to consider schools in a small city or suburban or rural area. But, of course, the trade-off is that the surrounding area may present fewer off-campus activities and opportunities. The aesthetics of a school campus are important. Having green space, open areas for students to congregate and engage are important. Traffic generated from local surrounding businesses, parents, staff, and the delivery of goods is what will determine the length of time it takes to arrive at the school. Parking for staff and parents can be challenging in some community neighborhoods.

Accessibility:It is essential to build a school in a safe location. By secure place, it means areas where there is a less or negligible amount of crimes or areas where people are not indulged in any form of intoxicants, etc. Public transportation in most cities needs to be safe for students to take. The need for designated pick-up and drop-off spots in the city must be assessed for safety. Additionally, park-and-wait lots for parents should be established, along with well-lit waiting areas to accommodate inclement weather and ensure safety. All these issues should be addressed to ensure the welfare of the student and school community.

Competition: What will your founding school offer that other schools in the area do not offer? Will if be a world renowned curriculum? Will the school focus on the Arts, Sports, or Science and Maths or perhaps language support for second and third language learners? Clearly articulate what sets your school apart from others. Highlight unique programs, teaching methodologies, extracurricular activities, or facilities that appeal to prospective students and their families.Highlight how your school prioritizes the holistic development and well-being of students. Discuss support services, counseling programs, and initiatives aimed at fostering a positive learning environment. Maintain open and transparent communication with prospective families, providing clear information about admissions processes, fees, and policies. By focusing on these points, new schools can effectively attract and recruit students who align with their values, mission, and educational offerings.

Design of the school building: It’s important that founding school facilities keep up with advancing technologies to show potential clients ( parents/students/employees) the school is progressive and innovative. A cutting-edge facility starts with a technology-infused school layout and offices. Progressive schools now offer digital check-in kiosks, charging stations and lobbies that have work spaces with mobile computer workstations to provide staff, students and parents with efficient, optimal use. Biophilic interior design incorporates nature and eco-friendly components into an indoor school space with an excess of natural light, vegetation, organic textures and patterns, water and refreshing airflow. Rooted in science, biophilic design creates a multi-sensorial experience proven to reduce stress, improve cognitive function, stimulate creativity and instill tranquility. Integrating biophilic elements into your medical office design can promote a relaxing and refreshing environment for both students and employees.

Growth potential: Hiring a professional market analysis team to assess the area will benefit the school in making informed decisions regarding location, demographics, competition, and potential growth opportunities.When choosing a site to develop the school, it’s crucial that you keep the future of your school in mind. Plan for your anticipated growth, whether that be more students and employees, or additional services. It’s important that you choose a community that will accommodate any space you may need for development while supporting your progress.

Building a school requires more than just constructing physical infrastructure; it demands a strategic plan that comprehensively addresses the myriad factors that may pose challenges to enrollment. From assessing the location's accessibility and surrounding amenities to understanding local demographics, competition, and community needs, a thorough examination is essential. Additionally, considerations such as safety, transportation, curriculum offerings, and marketing strategies play pivotal roles in attracting and retaining students. By meticulously planning and addressing potential obstacles, a school can establish a strong foundation for success and ensure sustainable enrollment growth.

As an international consultant specializing in founding schools, I provide invaluable insights and support for those venturing into opening new educational institutions. With expertise in leadership, academic training, and a vast network, contact Dr. Renata McFarland at International Educational Consultants for assistance with leadership training, mentoring, school policy, startup queries, or operational challenges. Whether through training sessions, idea-sharing, attentive listening, or workshops, connect with me to leverage my expertise and support your school's success.

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