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When is the Best Time to Start Building an Elementary School Schedule?

A majority of elementary principals surveyed by District Management Group reported starting their school schedules in April or later. However, there are many benefits to starting as early as January, if not earlier, with a defined elementary school schedule process, clear roles and responsibilities, and ensuring time to iterate, and make adjustments based on emerging data. This can improve the quality of the schedule as well as reduce the stress of scheduling as the end of the school year approaches.

Percentage of respondents starting their schedule by quarter


Four Steps You Can Take to Build Efficient Elementary School Schedules

To kickstart your scheduling process and achieve better results, take these 4 steps:

    1. Define your elementary school schedule process and team

      • Who will be involved in the creation of your elementary school schedule?

      • What is the overall timeline and the specific milestones for the draft and final schedules?

      • What kind of elementary school schedule input are you seeking? From whom? When will you seek this?

      When you define the process clearly and articulate roles and responsibilities, you can increase transparency and engagement with the scheduling process and incorporate the valuable inputs that make your schedule an effective tool for achieving your learning objectives.

      2. Identify and organize your scheduling data

        Information is the key to good decision-making. Collect the data you'll need to inform your next schedule.

        • With a student-centric mindset, identify what is working well and what needs to be improved by conducting a staff survey.

        • Analyze which programs and practices are yielding results, and which may need to be revised or phased out based on student growth data.

        • Review your instructional minute guidelines. Is there a clear achievement gap? Do you need to increase time for literacy, math, or interventions?

        • Is there a new curriculum, new initiatives, or safety measures that need to be considered in your elementary school schedule?

        3. Have fun with it! Organize scheduling parties

          As a principal, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Set up a cross-functional scheduling committee to help gather data and set goals for the next schedule. Develop a draft of the schedule and refine it together.

          Sharing and explaining constraints and trade-offs as well as identifying how you can better align the schedule to your teaching and learning goals will increase buy-in by the team. Don’t forget that It's a party. Bring cookies, snacks, or your local favorites, and have some fun!

          4. Bring best practices and expertise to the table

            Scheduling is complex, and many principals frequently use inadequate scheduling tools. According to our surveys of elementary principals around the country, very few use software designed for creating elementary school schedules.

            In fact, most principals and schedulers use paper, spreadsheets, and other cumbersome tools to organize their schedules. Consequently, scheduling becomes more difficult and time-consuming, resulting in wasted time and effort due to the deficiencies of these scheduling tools.

            Percentage of respondents by tools used (some used multiple tools)


            Take advantage of school scheduling best practices and strong elementary school scheduling software such as DMSchedules (built for scheduling through principal input nationwide).

            You, your teachers, your staff, and most importantly your students will benefit from the time savings and opportunity to build the best schedule and not just one that fits everything into the school day.

            Need Help with Scheduling? Contact Us.

            Over the last two decades, our team has supported thousands of school leaders across the country in building elementary school schedules. We have addressed a wide range of scheduling challenges, from managing staff shortages and sharing staff to aligning priorities to meet the needs of all students. Contact us to get assistance with your school scheduling.