Adequate Space Requirements For Mega High Schools

DeKalb Schools has traditionally built relatively small neighborhood schools. The district has been using these specifications for minimum space requirements when building new schools:

DeKalb Schools is adding seats in North DeKalb and is entering the era of Mega Schools. The new Brookhaven Cross Keys high school will have a capacity of 2,500 students. Surely a school with more students will need more common spaces – larger/additional gym; significantly more cafeteria space; larger/additional locker room; expanded hallways; larger/additional band room, choir room, etc …
Last December I asked the administration about the minimum space requirements for a school with a 2,500 student capacity. Chief Operating Officer, Joshua Williams, shares his thoughts

Joshua Williams

Joshua Williams
DeKalb Schools Chief Operating Officer
Date: 12/8/2018

The District’s targeted space requirements are provided in the High School Education Specifications and are for a new replacement high school with a 1,600-seat student capacity. These targeted space requirements are based upon the recently built Chamblee Charter High School which opened in 2014 with a 1600-seat student capacity. The Georgia Department of Education’s Guideline for Square Footage Requirements for Educational Facilities was used as a starting point to develop the High School Education Specifications and was enhanced based upon the District’s programming needs for curriculum and instruction.
This High School Education Specifications document will be updated to reflect the needs identified for the new larger Cross Keys High School (2,500 – seat student capacity) slated to be constructed under the District’s E-SPLOST V program. At such time, the District’s new targeted square footage requirements for the Cafeteria and Physical Education spaces will be established for any new replacement high school with a 2,500 – seat student capacity.

Fulton County Schools Districtwide Educational Space Standards
“[DeKalb Schools] High School Education Specifications document will be updated to reflect the needs identified for the new larger [high schools]” –Josh Williams
Thanks Josh. In the mean time, let’s check out what the Fulton County School District (FCSD) does for their mega schools. FCSD has half a dozen schools with 2000+ students.
In 2015, Fulton County Schools engaged a nationally recognized educational facility planning firm to develop a Facility Master Plan.
Fulton County Schools Districtwide Educational Space Standards
Recommended Spaces for a high school with an 1,850 FTE capacity:
Page 24 – Music: Orchestra, Music Technology, Band, Chorus, Marching Band: High school band room needs to hold up to 200 students plus many large instruments.
Page 26 – Athletics – Participation in athletic activities have shown to have numerous positive impacts on student achievement, discipline, attendance, and overall productivity of the students. In order to support these athletic endeavors, the District must provide a variety of facilities.
Page 48 – Physical Education Spaces In addition to the standard gymnasium with raised track and 2,000 seat bleachers, a high school with a capacity of 1,850 will also need an auxiliary gymnasium with 375 seat bleachers.

DeKalb Schools plans on constructing a 750-seat, 38-classroom, two-story addition to Lakeside High School extending the current footprint and bringing the new capacity to 2,500 seats. Chamblee Charter High School will be getting 600 seats bringing capacity 2,410 and adding 600 seats to Dunwoody High School bringing capacity there to 2,100.
None of the spaces recommended by the Fulton Schools Educational Space Standards are budgeted with these expansions.


Lakeside HS Council
Not A Fan of the Building Additions

January 24, 2018 – To balance out the racial diversity and socio-economics of the student populations attending Lakeside HS as well as evenly distribute the students from the lengthy Buford Hwy Corridor, the E-SPLOST V Project List includes a 750-seat, 38-classroom, two-story addition to Lakeside High School (LHS).

DeKalb Commissioners Not A Fan of the
E-SPLOST High School Building Additions

February 15, 2017 – DeKalb County Commissioners are unanimously asking the DeKalb County School District to build a new high school in Doraville and not add a bunch of classrooms to Lakeside, Dunwoody, and Chamblee Charter High Schools.

750 More Seats at Lakeside HS? Why?
January 30, 2017 – Lakeside High School is currently cramming 2,184 students into a building with a capacity of 1,756 students. Only one other school in North DeKalb scored a below average 2016 School Climate Star Rating. How will adding 750 seats to Lakeside High School improve their School Climate Star Rating and academic achievement?

Is 600 More Seats At Chamblee Charter HS A Good Idea?
January 17, 2017 – Please help me understand why adding 600 seats to Chamblee Charter High School is good for anybody in that community? I suspect that any support is driven by redistricting.

Pros and Cons of adding 600 seats to Dunwoody HS
January 7, 2017 – Moving forward, I’m trying to understand the support for the building addition at Dunwoody High School. The speculation that some Dunwoody residents would be redistricted out of DHS seems to be the only reason for any continued support of the building additions.

35 responses to “Adequate Space Requirements For Mega High Schools

  1. I’m sorry – but these guys are just not thinking. I doubt they’ve even gone out to other mega schools in metro Atlanta to compare. This is what parents do when choosing a place to live. DeKalb’s ONLY appeal in years past has been the fact that our schools were small, more boutique-like and neighborhood-based. Now that that is being destroyed, there will be no reason for people to choose to live in DeKalb or send their children to DeKalb schools when the nicest ‘mega’ schools are out in the suburbs.

  2. Stan have you come across any guidance for outdoor athletic facilities? The Chamblee construction referenced is already woefully inadequate in that regard.

  3. I mean, essentially, they are actually setting themselves up to compete with the likes of schools like these >>
    Brookwood in Gwinnett
    Berkmar in Gwinnett
    Centennial in Roswell
    North Springs Charter in Fulton
    All without offering a decent vocational school alternative for our young people.
    The ONLY edge DeKalb ever had over these fabulous, very competitive schools was offering smaller, more intimate schools where parents felt their children wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. I am not making this up – this was often discussed as the reason for choosing DeKalb. [Have these ‘planners’ not surveyed parents as to what appeals to them in choosing a school??] Now that the small school model has been destroyed – it’s going to be very, very hard to find a reason to choose DeKalb. Unless you are just stuck living there and can’t afford to go private. And then, it’s not really a choice, is it?

  4. My point >> These guys really need to stop what they are doing and go out and get help from experienced, professional school space planners.

  5. Starting with hallways – check these dimensions at LHS, CCHS, CKHS and DHS (all older schools that have been added on to rather than built from scratch with a plan).
    High school corridors, where lockers will be installed, shall be a minimum clear width of 9 feet if the lockers are on one side only. If there are to be lockers on both sides, the corridor must be at least 10 feet wide.
    When a corridor serves 10 or more instructional units, add 1 more foot to the base clear width and adjust with 1 additional foot for each width of lockers that is located in the corridor. Major high school corridors serving 12 or more instructional units shall be at least 12’0″ wide with an additional foot added for each width of lockers to be located in the corridor.

  6. FTE of 2,495-2,520 requires a minimum of 8,550 sf for media space (library)
    Science Laboratory & Classroom Combination; 1,000-1,200 SF
    PE >> 22,000*** (3,000 S.F. of recommended amount is for athletics; therefore 3,000 S.F. is ineligible for state funding.)
    ART >> 1,800-2,000 SF
    HOME EC >> 1,500 SF
    Band >> 1,800-2,400 SF
    Choral >> 1,500-1,800 SF
    Combination Instrumental & Choral>> 1,800-2,400 SF
    Formula for Cafeteria: Middle and High = Total FTE divided by 3.15 multiplied by 12
    (If a space for assembly is included in cafeteria, the formula is total FTE multiplied
    by five (5) square feet)

  7. Why is there no plan to fill the building which have empty seats?
    The schools are not in favor of the additions. The parents are not in favor of the additions. The communities are not in favor of the additions. The County Commissioners are not in favor of the additions. The above have all said the facilities and acreage will not support a 2509 students learning environment. The county infrastructure will not support the additions. The negative impact on the environment is irreversible. The traffic at intersections and exits for I-85 from Shallowford to N. Druid Hills Rd is beyond capacity with more businesses being planned and built. The expansion plan actually depends on residents choosing other schools for their children. Otherwise they will be beyond capacity when they are completed.
    Please go back to the drawing board!

  8. Russell Carleton

    C D, because… re-districting!

  9. Russell Carleton is correct. How many of the parents who don’t want Lakeside, Chamblee, or Dunwoody expanded ae willing to send their kids to the new Brookhaven/Cross Keys High School? I have not seen one say so publicly.
    How many parents in middle and south DeKalb would be willing to be redistricted to relieve overcrowding in Regions 1 & 2? If previous redistricting efforts are any indication, the answer is, none.

  10. DCSD didn’t meet its own High School Educational Specifications requirements with its newest high school, Chamblee Charter High School. Page 89 of that document requires a 16,000 square foot gym for a 1600 FTE school.
    DCSD says that CCHS can support 1810 students. Yet the gym at CCHS is only 15,529 square feet.
    (source= page 335 of the Appendices package of for RFQu 17-752-029 at No increase in gym size is included in the addition that will make CCHS a 2410 seat school.
    Dunwoody HS already has nearly 2000 students, and its gym is only 12,040 square feet. That doesn’t meet DeKalb’s requirement for a 1600 FTE school, much less the 2100 FTE that Dunwoody will become.
    I don’t know the gym size at Lakeside, but I would expect that it is closer to the Dunwoody size than the CCHS size.
    Folks, don’t just believe what DCSD says. Check it out.
    It’s bad enough that DCSD doesn’t follow its own specifications, and that it refuses to acknowledge that 600-750 seat additions require expansions of gyms and other common spaces too. Sounds like the new Cross Keys HS might be the only one to get a bigger gym to support its mega-school status. The other schools that become mega-schools through additions will just have to “deal with” undersized gyms and common spaces.
    Even worse that these mega-schools, which will most likely move into the highest athletic classification in Georgia, must compete with schools in counties like Fulton that provide adequate facilities for PE and everything else. This is a disadvantage for our kids, one that is totally avoidable if DCSD would just stop pretending that these huge additions only need classrooms and a bit more room in the cafeteria, kitchen and media center.

  11. Southwest DeKalb has hundreds of empty seats, classrooms being used as offices, storage, and lounges. Plenty of room. No reason other than politics not to do a little redistricting.

  12. If my information is correct, MLK Jr. HS was on lockdown last week. This was on the news and in one of the local neighborhood newspapers. What we have not seen on the news or in the newspaper is the fact that Stoneview Elementary was put on lockdown twice last week. The Administration said one time was a drill, which was not true, students and teachers saw the police and the criminal run across the playground. Friday, a very upset parent walked into a classroom and wanted to know why her son is being bullied everyday and no one is doing anything about it. Why is it, parents are not being told the TRUTH?? Stop pretending everything is alright when it is not.Stoneview needs Resource Officers Now!!!

  13. Mr. Green,
    The BOE members for Stoneview ES are Dr. Melvin Johnson ( and Dr. Joyce Morley ( I suggest you and other parents contact them with your concerns.
    You also have a big shot Regional Superintendent, Dr. Triscilla Weaver, triscilla_r_weaver Tell her of your concerns.
    Stoneview ES also has a Local School Council. The Stoneview website says that the School Council will meet this week on February 9, 2018 at 12pm in the SVES library. Why not have lots of parents attend that meeting? (But I would verify the date and time, as NO minutes have ever been posted for the SVES School Council.)
    It’s good to tell Stan about these things. But I don’t think Dr. Johnson, Dr. Morley, or Dr. Weaver would take very kindly to Stan asking questions if they hadn’t heard about it first.

  14. The administration and BOE reps have meetings in public all the time. You will get a lot of traction by talking to people in person.

  15. Cere,
    Thanks for posting info about Georgia DOE space requirements for classrooms and other spaces in schools.
    Actually, when DCSD rebuilt Chamblee Charter High School they did a good job, mostly. Classrooms are 744-843 square feet, well above the 600 square feet minimum from Georgia DOE.
    CCHS science classrooms are 1538 – 1603 square feet, well above the 1000-1200 square feet minimum from Georgia DOE. And they included 14 science classrooms, which is exactly what the National Science Teachers Association defines as “best practices” for a 1600 seat high school that requires 4 years of science.
    And as stated in an earlier post, even though the CCHS gym is too small for DCSD standards or Georgia DOE standards, it is much bigger than the Dunwoody gym, so that is progress.
    So DCSD made a good faith effort to design and build a school to support students and teachers.
    But now they are going to cram in a 600 seat addition onto an already undersized campus. DCSD has never met with Chamblee cluster stakeholders to discuss the addition, and has steadfastly refused to comment on the type of classrooms to be added, whether 6 more science classrooms will be added to meet NSTA standards for a 2400 seat school, or whether the new classrooms will be of the same size as the current ones.
    And what about schools like Lakeside, that probably have small classrooms that just barely meet Georgia DOE requirements? Because their school grew incrementally rather than being rebuilt, they are just “stuck” with what they have. I don’t know if DCSD has discussed the size or type of classrooms planned for its 750 seat addition, but that sure would be interesting info is a Lakeside person would like to share.

  16. Chad Peterson

    I think its safe to say that Cere doesn’t watch a lot of Georgia high school football. Brookwood is in the same region with Lakeside. Dunwoody is the same region as Centennial. You never want to be one of the smallest schools in your classification. 🙂

  17. @ Anonymous; Your suggestions sounds great, however, parents have been lied to so much through the years, they have lost faith in believing anything Stoneview ES has to say. The student council is a joke and the minutes from the meeting are non existent. As for the board members, they all know and year after year they do absolutely nothing. Dr. Weaver is aware also. She was @ Stoneview last week walking around. They all know about the ills @ that school from bullying, to fights, to cold food, cold classrooms, pot hole filled driveway, teachers that are constantly late, but the timesheet says something else. They put on a good show for the public. They do not care.

  18. Mr. Green,
    I’m not a bit surprised at what you just wrote. But it is sometimes helpful to go through the motions, as if you were working with honest folk who want to solve problems. If nothing else, it’s a paper trail you can cite when you talk to these leaders in public places, as Stan suggests.
    It’s terribly frustrating, and it’s all too common around DCSD. There is always the media….

  19. Just when I think I’ve heard it all. Building a mega school on a tiny amount of land in a neighborhood on top of an already seriously overcrowded high school is a great idea because we will be more competitive on the football field! That’s what we’ll tell 95% of the kids when they are even more trampled in the hallways and can’t find a seat at lunch, or in the gym or auditorium. No where for you to park? Who cares. No where for your parents to park? So what. Suck it up … we need a better pool of boys for the team! You’re not ever going to be on the team, but you know, its for the team! What do we say when a few sharp kids ask why don’t we just advocate for a different football region? Thanks for the enlightenment Chad Peterson. Wow.

  20. Dekalb Teacher - 2

    I really do like Dekalb, it is close to downtown, schools are small and cozy, and (at least for me) the neighborhoods are quiet. But I really question, the leadership of Dekalb Schools and Dekalb County. Do they really think their decision making is good without the input of the residents that is making up the community? People are moving here and living here for a reason. I really wish they would take their residents more seriously.

  21. Chad Peterson

    wowzers, I think you read more into my comment than is there. I don’t believe what you say I believe. Cere said that we shouldn’t expand as our schools will move up and be competing against Brookwood, Centennial, and Berkmar. I simple pointed out that District 1 schools have already moved up and are in regions with those exact schools.
    The right argument is that we need to not expand the schools and try to get into the lower classification as others schools see incremental growth. Dunwoody and Lakeside are the second smallest in 6A and 7A respectively. I thought my comment logically implied that, but apparently not. There is no way to grow those schools to be competitive in 7A if you look at the differentials in my link. While the people who track enrollment are typically football fans, this effects every sport and competition (band, debate, etc).

  22. It would be interesting to know if the BOE, who approved the purchase of the Smoke Rise ES site near the hazardous materials manufacturer, had access to the fire marshall’s report when they made that decision. It’s listed in the November BOE agenda as an outcome of Executive Session.

  23. I didn’t know until the board approved the purchase and I came home and told Nancy where the new elementary school was going. Nancy proceeded to tell me the numerous hazards right there and how dangerous that area was. Aside from me, Nancy, the fire marshal and a few people in the media, nobody else seems to care.
    From what I can tell, nobody seems to fully understand how dangerous that area is. Nancy better understands the hazards there, so I’m going to let her write something up.

  24. I wonder if Dr. Green knew about the hazards next door to the elementary school site. If I was in his position, I would want to know about anything that might hit the front page BEFORE it hits the front page. If he still thinks that site was the best one in the Smoke Rise attendance area, why not acknowledge these facts from the start? Waiting until the press reveals it isn’t transparent nor does it reflect well on DCSD.
    And if I was a BOE member, I would be extremely disappointed if the Superintendent knew but didn’t share that info with the BOE so they could consider it. Smoke Rise is in Jim McMahan’s district. I wonder what he thinks of the new site.
    This relates to the “secrecy in DCSD” issue, like keeping the names of the calendar committee secret. Each revelation makes you wonder what the next one will be.

  25. Dr. Green is well aware of the hazards. Whenever I discuss Smoke Rise ES with him, I refer to it as the school where all the kids are going to die.
    The board approved the Smoke Rise ES site on 11/6. That night I talked to Nancy. The next day I sent Dr. Green this email:

    “Dr. Green, Quick follow up on 11/6 business meeting
    1. Can you get eBoard updated with the agenda items from executive session the board passed?
    2. Can your staff provide a statement regarding the Chemical Plant adjacent to the proposed [Smoke Rise ES] site? Please include an assessment of any dangers presented by the chemical plant.”

    On 11/10, I received the following communication from the COO, Joshua Williams

    The Risk Hazard Analyses (RHA), that was completed and included in the site application submittal to GaDOE Facilities Unit for the proposed Smoke Rise Elementary School (SRES) site located at 4740 Hugh Howell Rd, Tucker, GA 30084, identified potential hazards consisting of an underground natural gas line, a railroad, and several industrial facilities within a one-mile radius of the site, including the referenced ITW Pro Brands (chemical manufacturing/storage facility at 4647 Hugh Howell Rd). All identified hazards were examined and measures are being incorporated into the design of the new SRES to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff, and community stakeholders.
    The following recommendations were provided in the RHA by our third-party environmental/professional engineering consulting firm to mitigate the potential hazards.
    1. Locate the buildings as far away from Hugh Howell Road as possible.
    2. Create a barrier along the southern boundary of the property such as an architectural wall or berm to prevent direct impact of an explosion (from the natural gas line or the industrial facilities to the south of the school).
    3. Design of air handling and ventilation systems should incorporate engineering controls to prevent intrusion of hazardous airborne contaminant (i.e. shut-off system, detection devices, and control air circulation and purging of contaminants from the building envelope).
    4. Prepare an emergency preparedness plan to address the potential hazards referenced in this report, including the Railroad, Chemical Storage Facilities, and Natural Gas Pipeline.
    5. Prepare an evacuation plan consistent with the type of hazards identified to provide for efficient and timely evacuation of the buildings in case of an emergency.
    As an additional measure of caution and due diligence, we have a meeting scheduled for next week with representatives from our environmental/professional engineering consulting firm, ITW Pro Brands, and the DeKalb County Fire Department to discuss the potential hazards from the ITW Pro Brands facility.

  26. Mr Jester,
    How are parents suppose to feel comfotable about sending their children to this school? Why did the school system decide to go forward with this site once the potential risk were revealed?

  27. They believe the hazards can be sufficiently mitigated.

  28. @ Stan. I just spit out my coffee from laughter at your last statement. No offense to you but I really got a chuckle. The county has told the construction committee at HMS how many things about their dud of an HVAC. It’s like they are throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping that something they tell the committee and parents will stick. The county can’t take responsibility for this dud and it’s minor compared to Smoke Rise.

  29. Interesting that less then 2 years ago (May 2016) the Facility Condition Assessment for Smoke Rise Elementary School stated
    “The main building, 2003 gymnasium, covered walkway, and site are to be demolished and removed upon completion of 2015-2016 school year to facilitate the construction of a new school ON THE EXISTING SITE.”
    So I wonder what changed to make SMES move from its tree-filled 10.7 acre site to an approximately 12 acre site in an industrial complex?
    And why DCSD is so far behind schedule? DCSD planned to demolish SMES almost 2 years ago, yet instead they are just buying a new industrial site for the school. I feel sure that it’ll be at least 2 more years before a new SMES is open for business.

  30. If I correctly remember the land could not sustain a new school on the old site. It had something to do the sewer but I can’t honestly remember what exactly it was with the sewer system.

  31. @Chad Peterson >> You are correct. I don’t watch high school football. But I simply have to wonder why schools in other counties manage to build such functional, large-scale schools with plenty of practice fields and very impressive stadiums – when DeKalb – with the highest millage rate in the state is still in such a construction mess – after over $2 Billion in SPLOST construction spending. I stand on my theory that DeKalb will crumble if they forgo their only appeal to parents (customers) – that being small, intimate neighborhood schools – in an attempt to go large scale and fail to compete with neighboring counties. Oddly I must add a caveat – the schools in south DeKalb have plenty of space to expand to large scale (MLK, SW DeKalb, Arabia, etc). One cookie cutter does not fit all no matter how hard you try to make it so.

  32. To clarify — I wasn’t talking about competing with large scale schools in neighboring counties for football … although that is an issue to some people, our only really good teams are in south DeKalb where there IS space for sports. I am talking about the schools in general. If a parent were to tour say, Lakeside, Chamblee or Dunwoody, then go to the relatively nearby same-size schools in Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett, there would be little reason to choose a DeKalb school over those. HOWEVER >> If the choice was to provide your child with a smaller, more intimate, community-like school where you are known to all of your teachers and staff, then DeKalb used to be the choice hands down. It was always their strongest point of differentiation. Why give that up? They say the large scale is more cost-effective … I’d like to see those numbers.

  33. @ Stan >> Seriously?!!! >> “Create a barrier along the southern boundary of the property such as an architectural wall or berm to prevent direct impact of an explosion (from the natural gas line or the industrial facilities to the south of the school).”