Capacity Determination Guide

So, the capacity of your school is constantly changing. What’s up with that?

Last week I discussed the Enrollment/Capacity/Trailers in Region 1 Elementary Schools. How does the school district arrive at those capacity numbers?

Supporting Documents
 Austin ES Redistricting – Capacity History and Summary
 Doraville United ES Redistricting – Capacity History and Summary
 Prototype Elementary School Capacity Report Analysis
 2017 Capacity Reports – All DeKalb Schools

Capacity Determination Guide

The functional capacity of an educational facility is defined as the number of students the facility can accommodate. The “Instructional Use Model” recognizes that the functional capacity of a school is dependent on the use of instructional spaces by educational programs offered by the school for any given year. The Instructional Use Model methodology first counts the numbers of the various types of instructional rooms in the school, which creates the school’s room inventory.

Typical room types include: general classrooms, kindergarten rooms, special education rooms, science rooms, gyms, etc. The room type inventory can change from year to year depending on the educational programs offered in the school or how the various rooms in a school are used.

The total of rooms for each room type is then multiplied by the maximum students‐per‐room (or the loading factor) to determine the capacity by room type. Loading factors vary by educational program and are comparable to a “teacher/student ratio”. The capacities of all room types are totaled to identify the gross capacity for the school.

The gross capacity for the school is then multiplied by a scheduling factor, which takes into account the realities of how the space is used, to determine the functional capacity. The scheduling factor recognizes the fact that, typically, not all classrooms are scheduled for every period at a school. For example, high school students move from room to room and enroll in a variety of courses. As a result, some rooms will sit empty or will be less than fully occupied at any given time. Teacher preparation periods will also contribute to rooms not being used for instruction at a particular time. Therefore DCSD uses a 65 percent scheduling factor to reduce the gross capacity of the building to reflect the unused rooms due to the realities of how a high school functions. Middle schools and elementary schools are assigned a 85 percent scheduling factor.

On the capacity calculation sheets, you’ll notice a line item for Adjustments (to account for over/under utilized space). If a classroom needs to be tweaked for some reason, there is also a balancing item called “Adjustments”. For example, let’s say one of the 4-5 rooms is much smaller than the others and can only hold 26 students. Then there is an adjustment of “-5” to account for that small room. The adjustment is subjective and ripe for abuse. If this number is large, then something is wrong (putting students in a classroom they shouldn’t be in, data manipulation, etc …).

The following exhibit lists the loading factors and scheduling factors used to calculate the functional capacities for DeKalb Schools. Since different scheduling and instructional models are used at elementary, middle, and high schools; the room types are divided into three levels with different loading factors at each level.



Elementary Schools – 85%
Middle Schools – 80%
High Schools – 65%


In schools with low enrollment, there could be rooms that were built for instructional use and are now being used for non‐instructional uses. These underutilized rooms should be classified as general classrooms.

Career Technological spaces many times have combination of a lab and classroom paired together. The paired is counted as one space and provided as the capacity shown in R.43 (above).

Media Centers and High School Orchestra rooms are considered instructional units by Georgia Department of Education (GA DOE). These rooms are included as their own room types but DO NOT contribute to capacity.

Classrooms in trailers are not counted.



Redistricting First Round Summary
September 30, 2019 – Amazingly overnight, the capacity of the new schools went from 900 to 950. The capacity of all other schools in the feeder pattern dropped by 5% – 20%.

18 responses to “Capacity Determination Guide

  1. Austin ES, Doraville United ES and John Lewis ES were built using the 900 seat elementary school prototype. On the day they open, I expect each school to have a capacity of over 1,000 students. Obama ES, Fernbank ES and Rockbridge ES were also built using the 900 seat prototype. As of Oct 2018, these were their capacities:

    Obama ES: 1,080
    Fernbank ES: 1,031
    Rockbridge ES: 1,023

  2. Stan, I’m confused by this. My child is in a high school foreign language class that has 34 students. Apparently DCSD’s waivers from the State BOE allow this class size. But your guidelines above say that a 9-12 grade regular classroom only has capacity for 31 students. Why does DCSD have waivers allowing them to put more kids in a room than its capacity? And who determines capacity – is it a fire marshal decision? Is there any argument based on room capacity that the class must be divided?

    Thank you!

  3. The number used for gen ed grades 1-3 isn’t the same as the class size allowance. Please explain how the capacity can show more space than the number of students actually allowed in the classrooms.

  4. Am I to understand this to mean there will be no more pull out resource rooms in the middle and high school setting?

  5. Despina Lamas

    Stan, were traffic studies required for the new construction schools? If so, were those traffic studies done on a 900 capacity school or a larger number?

  6. Ben Greenwald

    Thank you for all of the great detail. Has the District been able to provide any details as to what changed to explain the drop in capacity of the schools in the feeder? Also, who has the authority to change the designation on a room? Finally, when we refer to a “900 Student Elementary School”, what does that really mean? Gross Capacity? Functional Capacity? What does it assume about rooms that have a smaller than normal or no assigned population like Specials, ESOL, or Special Education Rooms?

  7. Changing capacities is nothing new in DCSD. The only catch is now, parents are paying more attention. I have seen this for the last 20+ years.

    @Despina – LHS CAC asked for traffic study a while back when they first formed. The county came up for one day. They put out the sensors around 9 am and they were gone by 3 pm. So, to say that the county does an accurate traffic study is laughable at best.

  8. Ben Greenwald

    In looking at the Dunwoody Cluster Schools in the 2017 report it is interesting to note that Dunwoody Elementary Schools is the only school in the cluster with “Gifted Classrooms”. It appears that all of their regular classrooms have received this designation.

    Dunwoody – 33 K-5 Gifted Self Contained, 2 Pre-school, 13 K-5 Early Intervention Self Contained – Level 1, 3 PK-5 Special Education Self-Contained Other
    Hightower – 15 General Classrooms, 10 K-5 Early Intervention, 1 Pre-School, 1 Kindergarten
    Chesnut – 16 General Classrooms, 1 Pre-School, 3 Kindergarten
    Kingsley – 18 General Classrooms, 3 PK-5 Special Education Self Contained – Other, 1 Pre-School, 4 Kindergarten
    Vanderlyn – 19 General Classrooms, 1 Pre-School, 6 Kindergarten, 1 K-5 Non-Instructional Use
    Austin – 20 General Classrooms, 1 Pre-School, 6 Kindergarten

    I’m not sure why Dunwoody Elementary has its classrooms classified as Gifted instead of General. In the entire District this is only done for 36 classrooms and 33 of them are at DES. If they have been improperly classified, simply reclassifying would increase the capacity of DES by between 112 and 224 students.

    Also its interesting to note that the Official Capacity Report makes no distinction between permanent classrooms and classrooms that are in trailers.
    I’m looking forward to seeing the 2019 numbers

  9. Despina, The only concern the school district had was the price and location. I doubt traffic studies were done. Even if traffic studies were done, they’d be perfunctory like the traffic study done for the Lakeside HS building addition.

  10. Ben,
    Hans Williams with the school district said that Round 2 of the redistricting discussions would go into better detail regarding the capacity changes. We should get the new calculation sheets for each school in the next few weeks. That will shed some light.

    I’m not sure who decides what the designation of a room is. I suspect the district or district consultants go through it with the principal. Then the school district administration manipulates the figures as they see fit.

    “900 Student Elementary School” … since capacity is instructional capacity, I assume that’s what they mean. Granted, there are some assumptions made since there are no kids in the school yet. I’d like to know what those assumptions are. I’ll ask Hans. Obviously, a school with students in them doesn’t make those assumptions.

  11. FormerDekalbTeacher

    How would one go about finding the capacity of a specific room in a school? I know a special education resource teacher that has been moved to a much smaller room, without windows, that used to be an office for an instructional coach.

  12. Dedicated Thirty Years

    FormerDekalbTeacher, every school is required to keep a RedNotebook in the front office that is updated annually with, among other things, classroom capacity.

  13. Frustrated Parent Taxpayer

    What I would like to know is how school enrollment and capacity impact FTE funding, state reimbursements, and any other funding revenue. DeKalb Schools seems to think that property owners can be taxed endlessly, while the school system bears no responsibility for financial efficiency. We are being taxed repeatedly – federal, state, county, SPLOST, and now perhaps the GO BOND. Enough!
    I have been told that the GA DOE funds an administrator at elementary schools with an enrollment of 450 students or more. Does the GA DOE also fund middle and high school administrators? If so, at what levels of enrollment does the benefit occur?
    As for the trend to build 950 seat elementary schools, what is the motivation? Is there an additional financial benefit? If so, what is it? I’ve asked principals and county administrators and no one has been able to provide an answer? Having taught in both small (less than 400 students) and large (over 1,200 students) elementary schools, I prefer smaller schools and observed that children were more successful and less stressed in those smaller environments.
    The school district has a bad habit of presenting limited information to stakeholders and then asking for feedback on surveys and input sessions. School district officials cherry-pick stakeholders’ comments to justify their poor decision-making, instead of being good stewards of our tax dollars to benefit our children and communities. Stakeholders need ALL the information, including the opportunities for reimbursement from the GA DOE, to make informed decisions and give meaningful feedback.

  14. Frustrated parent taxpayer

    The traffic study at LHS is another example of DCSD’s waste of our tax dollars. LHS failed the traffic study, which any resident could have told DCSD would happen, and yet DCSD hasn’t abandoned the project and continues to pay architects to make plans to add a 4th building and a multi-story parking garage. DCSD has no power or money to change Briarcliff Road (the only access point to campus) or any problematic intersections surrounding the school. Last year teachers expressed concerns about chronic disruptions in first period classes due to tardy students, who impact the learning potential for on-time students. The attendance secretary estimated 30-40 car-riders were tardy daily, often due to traffic backups on Briarcliff. Rd. Investigations were impossible, as LHS staff kept no records on late buses and students. How can one identify and correct a problem without collecting data?

  15. In my humble opinion, Dekalb County will always do a poor job for Dunwoody. Our interests are not aligned. Big governmental entities rarely function well, and Dekalb is poor even judged by that standard. City school districts would be best. Perhaps if Sandy Springs is successful, then Dunwoody will follow. The push would probably have to come from our state rep., who due to party affiliation, probably doesn’t want to get involved. Maybe the new mayor can reinvigorate the movement? Would be nice.

  16. The designation of gifted classrooms may be due to having a large number of teachers who are certified to provide gifted instruction to the gifted students in the class. I do not know the details, but I know classes with a gen ed + gifted certified teacher and a minimum/maximum number of gifted students receives greater FTE funding. Of course, your student population has to support the numbers. It sounds to me like the administrators at Dunwoody Elementary are maximizing their FTE to receive maximum benefit, including a smaller number of students in the class.
    Stan, I still don’t understand how the capacity of a classroom is higher than the state class size. Is DeKalb utilizing waivers for class size or not? A couple of years ago you blogged that the Board was told the class sizes were being restored back to the state requirements. At that time there were no schools I worked in with the class sizes quoted to the Board. All were still at waiver size. The class sizes I see in DeKalb schools today are no different, but in elementary grades 1-3, classes are not at 27 which is the waiver number. If DeKalb is not operating under a class size waiver, which does not apply to special populations, the classroom capacity should be the same as the state class size limits.
    Can you please clarify?

  17. There are a lot of schools with all or mostly gifted teachers. DeKalb is absolutely using class size waivers.

  18. I want to remind everyone the DeKalb County School District has no problem just changing the number of classrooms in a school to adjust the capacity.

    In 2012, Tucker High was reported to have 74 classrooms. In 2017, Tucker High was reported to have 89 classrooms. Tucker High opened in 2010 and has gotten no additions since then.

    You need to verify the number of classrooms on the current capacity report. The most recent ones posted are from 2017, but obviously things have changed at several schools.