Co-located schools offer challenges and benefits
- After she retires at the end of March, Carmen Fariña, the outgoing New York City schools chancellor, is taking a role directing the city’s Co-Located Campus Initiative, a program that helps school leaders better share campus space, Chalkbeat reports.
- Previous mayor Michael Bloomberg broke up large high schools across the city, creating 380 district schools that are co-located as clusters of smaller schools sharing the same buildings, and while the move has raised graduation rates, it has created a new set of problems on many campuses as schools with different initiative priorities and discipline practices vie for space and share access to specialized facilities.
- Under Fariña’s leadership, some of the smaller schools have closed, and she is encouraging schools to pool budgets, resources and staff members, in some cases, while maintaining individual school size so students have increased access to programs and opportunities that smaller schools can ill-afford on their own.
People living in rural school districts have a hard time envisioning a scenario in which several schools share one facility. However, in large cities, where real estate cost is high and population is dense, such situations do arise — in some cases resulting in different models of schools, like traditional and charter schools, sharing the same space. Creating smaller schools within a larger campus framework allows school leaders the opportunity to focus on the needs of fewer students and has produced increased graduation rates. However, it is inevitable that housing different schools with differing priorities and strategies within the same building will engender conflict at times.
There are, of course, other scenarios that cause different schools to co-locate on the same campus. In other locations across the country, schools have learned to share campus space because of a leaky roof, flooding and mold issues. In North Carolina, a new career-focused high school is in the process of being placed within an existing middle school in an effort to better utilize building space in an area with a shrinking population.
There are some advantages to sharing campus space. In fact, a study published in 2017 found that when traditional and charter schools share a building, all students benefit academically. However, co-location requires careful planning and clear-cut guidelines. New York’s new Co-located Campus Initiative is seeking ways to use shared campuses in a more effective way by sharing resources and increasing collaboration.