School colocation (sometimes written as "co-location") is the operation of more than one school in a single building. Colocated schools can be in the same school system or in different school systems. As an example, a new public charter school might be colocated into excess space at the same facility currently hosting a public district school. Colocated schools may be separated physically by floors or other physical barriers and may share certain facilities (e.g., auditoriums, gymnasiums, libraries) or services (e.g., custodial, groundskeeping), though the resources shared and the financial arrangements for those uses vary.
- Goal: Increase the utilization of education facility space
- Goal: Identify space for new schools
- Goal: Decrease the cost of education
Local District School operates in a large school facility but has experienced declining enrollment for several years. As a result, several parts of the school building go underused. Meanwhile, a local group wants to open a new, specialized school in the same neighborhood as Local District School. The Local Board of Education decides to allow New Specialized School to operate in the same building as Local District School. The two schools operate independently but share the same facilities and custodial services, for which New Specialized School partly compensates Local District School.
Potential tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:
- Negative impact on space and resources available to existing public schools
- Overcrowding of school facilities
- Exacerbation of economic-based achievement gap (if disproportionately wealthy and involved parents shift their children from a lower-performing existing school to a higher-performing co-located school)
- Negative environmental impact of growing a specific facility's overall student population (e.g., traffic, air pollution, noise)
- Workplace and student tension if schools are competing for the same school aid and student population, or if teachers have differing employment terms
If answered yes, the following questions indicate conditions under which the policy may be most effectively implemented:
- Is there sufficient excess space available at one or more existing school facilities?
- Is there demand for space for new or larger schools (public, private or charter), or a desire to consolidate existing schools for efficiency?
- Does the school facility with excess space possess the appropriate infrastructure (e.g., early childhood vs. secondary student bathrooms, gymnasiums, lockers) to serve--or could it be easily adapted for--the population that is to be colocated?
- For new schools, is there a lack of available private space that make other new school sites less viable?
- For new schools, does the entity seeking a new school lack adequate financing to construct its own new facility?
- For new schools, does the entity seeking a new school lack adequate expertise to construct its own facility?
- Are the Tradeoffs cited above unlikely to be applicable in the given jurisdictional context?
The following questions should be considered when determining how to implement this policy:
- Which services and facilities should be shared between the colocated schools?
- Which services and facilities should be segregated between the colocated schools?
- What compensation, if any, should the newly co-located school pay to the current school system for the use of space and shared services?
- What lease term and conditions should be offered to the newly co-located school?
- Has adoption of: Common. Co-location of multiple schools in a single facility is common, though co-locating schools of overlapping grade levels in a single building is less common. Often seen in urban school districts with limited facility space and a desire for new schools.
- For education level(s): Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary. Colocation typically occurs in public early childhood, primary and secondary schools, which may be forced to make space available due to their tendency to be more directly controlled by local governments and a current trend toward the creation of new charter schools, which often lack the funding or competence to undertake school construction and may be unable to afford rent in whatever suitable office space already exists.
- For issue: Efficiency.
- Notable entities who have implemented or adopted this policy include:
- Associations - Charter Schools. Rationale: if colocation allows free or discounted space for charter schools.
- Advocates - Charter Schools. Rationale: if colocation allows free or discounted space for charter schools.
- Advocates - Educational Choice. Rationale: if colocation increases educational options for local students.
- Labor Unions - Custodians. Rationale: if colocation increases workload for custodial staff without commensurate compensation or new employment opportunities.
- Labor Unions - Teachers. Rationale: if colocation reduces available space and resources to existing teachers; if colocation is perceived to reduce demand for unionized school teachers.
- Constituent Groups - Parents and Parent Associations. Rationale: if colocation reduces available space and resources for existing children/students.
- The Effects of Co-location on New York City's Ability to Provide All Students a Sound Basic Education. (2014). The Campaign for Educational Equity. June 2014. A research study of New York City school co-locations informed by data analysis and qualitative interviews.
- The Effect of Co-Locations on Student Achievement in NYC Public Schools. Winters, Marcus A. (2014. Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute. Civic Report. No. 85 February 2014. Longitudinal study of the test-score performance of individual New York City students following the introduction of a colocation, or as the magnitude of the colocation changes, finding no evidence that colocations have any discernible impact on student achievement in a traditional public school.
- Exploring the Definitions and Discourse of Co-Location. Griffiths, E. (2015), Exploring the definitions and discourse of co-location. British Journal of Special Education, 42: 152–165. doi: 10.1111/1467-8578.12086. This article focuses on the term "co-location" and considers the sometimes vague discourse and definitions surrounding the term. The article recommends that future research should begin to explore co-located schools so as to support the developing discourse and to help us better understand the potential of such arrangements.
- The Legal Requirements for School Co-Location in New York City An outline of the colocation process in New York City schools. Authored by Advocates for Children of New York.
- Co-Location Fact Sheet A guide to the issue of colocation from the charter school perspective. Authored by the New York City Charter School Center.