Design Principle 4: Be Practical, Cost Effective, Flexible, and Adaptable

Pattern 4.0: Do More with Less
The importance of being practical, efficient, and cost effective begins with the planning of the charter school facility. Begin by building the floor plan around learning activities rather than the traditional classroom centered planning approach. Provide for a much more efficient use of spaces by eliminating corridors and single-use spaces and utilizing every square foot for learning. When looking at all materials, equipment, surfaces, and spaces consider how they can be multifunctional serving more then one use at differing times.

Pattern 4.1: Lead with Empowered Entrepreneurship
A successful charter school must be academically engaging, cost effective, and well run. In order to do this successfully, the administration must be able to lead with empowered entrepreneurship. This can be done in numerous ways, such as creating a training program that teaches incoming leaders the basic skills on how to lead effectively or by strong recruitment of innovative administrators and entrepreneurial business-minded educators. This will not only ensure that the charter school is being run effectively but also that it is promoting its business plan.

Pattern 4.2: Develop Student Autonomy and Accountability
A charter school’s basic purpose should be to develop student autonomy toward preparing students to enter the world as responsible citizens, instead of fostering dependence and obedience to authority. When students stop feeling powerless and are able to take charge of their own destinies, school begins to have a different meaning in their lives, becoming a stepping-stone for life success. Make the student aware of and accountable to their learning mission.

Pattern 4.3: Promote Teacher Autonomy and Accountability
Autonomy in charter schools is the polar opposite of top-down decision making in public schools. Teachers must have the flexibility to provide education services according to their student’s unique needs and interests. Teachers serving as a guide and mentor and allowing students to “discover” knowledge, is far more unpredictable and difficult to manage than a traditional classroom. It is no longer possible for a teacher to rely exclusively on so-called lesson plans and repeat them year after year. Teachers need substantially more preparation time and more staff development seminars that expose them to the latest research and effective methodologies for managing nontraditional “classes.” However, once they are freed from the isolation of their classroom, teachers are also eager to team with colleagues to design multidisciplinary projects. Schools must support faculty collaboration and provide more time to be innovative in teaching delivery methods.

Pattern 4.4: Think Long-Term Growth and Phases
Imagine your school at its beginning and then think of the ways it will need to grow and change in the future. A school’s designers need more than technical expertise to allow this transformation, they need to invite the vision and imagination of educators who, with them, look beyond how teaching and learning has been, and imagine how it might be some day. Purchase or lease land, design a building’s systems, and allocate space in planning so that the school’s visionaries can adapt to these evolving needs. Teach those in the school how to allow these changes to occur when the time comes. Encourage all to brainstorm their own visions of what the longer-term growth possibilities of the school could be.

Pattern 4.5: Provide Practical and Meaningful Counseling
Good career counseling programs meet children where they are and nurture the talent that all children have. Charter schools must build on students’ innate strengths and abilities and encourage them to pursue their interests in careers of their choice.

Pattern 4.6: Create Multiple Use and Flexible Space
Design schools for flexible and multifunctional use. Imagine differing ways students and teachers can use each element in a classroom and then how the classroom can adapt to different learning styles, settings, and uses. Be equitable, flexible, simple, and intuitive in classroom and classroom support use. Design to accommodate choice and allow for adaptability. Create spaces where additions, subtractions, and modifications can easily be made. Provide clear and cohesive spaces to accommodate a variety of uses that can change over time. “The building shall be designed as a ‘living’ space for maximum flexibility and change, so that the mix of learning areas—individual, team, small-group, and large-group—can be adjusted easily as needs vary.”

Pattern 4.7: Equip School with Non-fixed, Reconfigurable Furniture
Equip your school with reconfigurable, sturdy, portable furniture to support different teaching and learning situations. Tables, storage, display boards, and seating that can be easily moved, offers greater flexibility to advance teaching and learning purposes. Soft, brightly colored seating and coffee tables invite informal gatherings in learning spaces. All furnishings and storage elements should contribute to a school culture that values individuality, collaboration, and mutual respect.

Pattern 4.8: Provide Efficient, Effective and Adequate Storage for all Learning Spaces
Make certain to provide adequate storage opportunities for all teaching and learning spaces, recognizing differences in amount and type of storage needed for different age-levels and teaching styles.

Pattern 4.9: Effectively Distribute Learning Resources and Student Services
Easy access to academic resources (project rooms, specialty spaces, and libraries) and student services ( cafeterias, teacher workspaces, and health clinics) helps students thrive in school. Their placement within the overall school design should create a sense of openness, welcome, trust, and community. Decentralizing and distributing such resources often provides a more personal, family-like, student-centered atmosphere, and quality to the learning environment.