By T. R. Dunlap

Nobody should underestimate the importance of careful planning when schools engage in any operation or initiative. While many of us are eager to take an idea and run with it, the academic literature and case studies frequently remind us that planning cannot be ignored.  The research has indicated that the quality of a school's site-based plan is crucial to ensure positive implementation outcomes (Strunk, Marsh, Bush-Mecenas, & Duque, 2016), and other planning initiatives are equally invaluable. Whether a school is looking to build, expand, consolidate, or make changes in their operations, is it best to produce a planning document to clearly identify steps and describe the vision to others. Cook (2001) describes the important components in developing effective plans in his book Strategics: beliefs, mission, parameters, strengths, weaknesses, organizational design, competition, external analysis, critical issues, objectives, strategies, and priority actions.  These considerations can act as a template when educational planners begin their work to plan the future of their facility.

Facility planning for schools is a dynamic and challenging venture.  As educational planners, we have to be aware of the many stakeholders and competing interest involved in our planning initiatives. Whether you're an experienced planner or new to the enterprise of facility planning, the Education Facilities Clearinghouse (EFC) has been working to supply you with useful resources for your work. Our library and training tools feature some helpful planning document, and we've produced a video series on the important aspects of facility planning.  Educational facilities planning should include 5 major planning documents: educational facilities master plan, capital improvement plan, maintenance plan, energy and environmental management plan, and a safety and emergency operations plan.  To learn more watch the first video in our series on Education Facilities Planning.

To view the entire series, click here.

State and federal mandates for school systems require us to develop meaningful plans to establish vision and direction and demonstrate accountability with those in the community and governing authorities.  Federal mandates have also come with capacity building initiatives to help school leaders create and maintain effective plans.  For example, in light of the demands for schools to be ready in the event of emergency, the federal departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services, along with the FBI and FEMA jointly produced the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Planswhich is housed on the EFC website, to help schools establish a planning protocol and develop meaningful planning documents.  Similarly, the EFC has also been established by a federal grant to supply schools with technical assistance as school leaders begin and operate in the planning process.  As your school has need of help in planning activities, keep in mind the many resources that are available.

For additional planning resources, click here.

 

References

Cook, W. J. (2000). Strategics: the art and science of holistic strategy. Westport, Conn.: Quorum Books.

Strunk, K. O., Marsh, J. A., Bush-Mecenas, S. C., & Duque, M. R. (2016). The best laid plans an examination of school plan quality and implementation in a school improvement initiative. Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(2), 259–309.

For an expanded explanation of the Federal guidance on the development and implementation of school emergency operations plans, released by the Administration in June 2013, please see the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans. This document is located at http://www.efc.gwu.edu//library/guide-... and is also available, along with supporting resources, on the U.S. Department of Education’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center website, http://rems.ed.gov.

To view the entire series and to find resources visit the Educational Facilities Planning page.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Department of Justice (DOJ)/Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), United States Department of Education (USDOE), & Department Health and Human Services (DHHS), 2013. Our nation’s post secondary institutions are entrusted to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students, faculty, and staff who live, work, and study on campus. Faced with emergencies ranging from active shooter situations to fires, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and pandemic influenza, this is no easy task. Many of these emergencies occur with little to no warning; therefore, it is critical for institutions of higher education (IHEs) to plan ahead to help ensure the safety and general welfare of all members of the campus community.

View Guide

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Department of Justice (DOJ)/Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), United States Department of Education (USDOE), & Department Health and Human Services (DHHS), 2013. Lessons learned from school emergencies highlight the importance of preparing school officials and first responders to implement emergency operations plans. By having plans in place to keep students and staff safe, schools play a key role in taking preventative and protective measures to stop an emergency from occurring or reduce the impact of an incident. Although schools are not traditional response organizations, when a school-based emergency occurs, school personnel respond immediately. They provide first aid, notify response partners, and provide instructions before first responders arrive. They also work with their community partners, i.e., governmental organizations that have a responsibility in the school emergency operations plan to provide a cohesive, coordinated response. Community partners include first responders (law enforcement officers, fire officials, and emergency medical services personnel) as well as public and mental health entities.

We recommend that planning teams responsible for developing and revising school EOPs use this document to guide their efforts. It is recommended that districts and individual schools compare existing plans and processes against the content and processes outlined in this guide. To gain the most from it, users should read through the entire document prior to initiating their planning efforts and then refer back to it throughout the planning process.

The guide is organized in four sections:

  1. The principles of school emergency management planning.
  2. A process for developing, implementing, and continually refining a school EOP with community partners (e.g., first responders and emergency management personnel) at the school building level.
  3. A discussion of the form, function, and content of school EOPs.
  4. “A Closer Look,” which considers key topics that support school emergency planning, including addressing an active shooter, school climate, psychological first aid, and information-sharing.

View Guide