August 20, 2002

Moving right along

  • A move manager can take the stress out of moving into a new school
    Heery International

    school move
    Courtesy of Heery International
    Moving an entire school is complicated and stressful. A move manager can help save time and sometimes even supplies, furniture and equipment.

    Psychologists claim that moving is one of the top life events that causes stress. Consider moving your family. Now imagine adding faculty, staff, a student body and all their stuff!

    Moving an entire school is complicated and stressful. One way to combat this stress, as well as save time, loss of productivity and sometimes even your supplies, furniture and equipment, is to hire a professional move manager.

    Seattle Public Schools has teamed with Heery International on 25 large-scale moves. That’s more than 2 million square feet in the past four years. Whether it’s moving into temporary space or a brand new facility, many factors can influence a move — it’s not as simple as packing a box and putting it on a truck.

    Plan the move

    When planning a move, it’s best to establish a target date and back into the schedule. For example, a year prior to the scheduled completion date of a new school is the best time to name the move committee, assign responsibility, and develop the overall plan along with flexible contingency plans.

    In some cases, you’re not merely moving from point A to point B. You can have point A moving to temporary point C between the time point A is being demolished and point B is under construction.

    You may also have to coordinate group 1 moving out of point A and group 2 moving into point A. And to really complicate matters, you could have several moves taking place simultaneously during summer or winter breaks.

    Coordinate with the construction team to ensure the new school will be ready when it’s time to move in.

    Because the move schedule is so closely tied to the construction schedule, there should be open lines of communication between the move manager, construction manager and contractors.

    The construction team needs to understand the moving plan and the moving committee should be privy to important information such as: Are they ahead or behind schedule? Is the elevator going to be ready? Are the rooms completely finished and clean? Will there be site access if the move is phased?

    During the final months of construction, meet regularly and constantly review the construction schedule against the moving plan.

    Be prepared

    A move has a major impact on a school’s faculty and staff. It is up to the move committee to determine how much assistance will be provided and how much they will be required to take on themselves. Whatever is decided, it is imperative to keep lines of communication open.

    If the staff will be packing their own classrooms, establish a clear set of guidelines such as labeling standards. For example, “room 101” at point A will probably not be “room 101” at point B. Also, be clear about what can and cannot be packed. One year, one of the teachers packed food products, which were then stored. When it came time to unpack, the box was infested with vermin.

    It’s more efficient to move only what you’ll need. If the new school is equipped with marker boards, why bring chalk? Clean house before you pack. This is an opportunity to get the PTA involved. Many schools enlist volunteers to help clean attics, basements, boiler rooms and other “storage” areas. They can also help teachers clean out their rooms and pack anything that isn’t being used.

    Moves also affect support services and school vendors including nutritional services, information technology, custodial services and early childhood education.

    Seattle Public Schools has “opening of schools task force” meetings with representatives of these departments to review the move schedule, discuss contingencies, and determine who is going to be where by when. This is especially important to areas that require state licensing prior to occupancy, such as before and after school day care. It’s also important to remember that others, such as furniture vendors, must be aware of site access, elevator availability and appropriate delivery times.

    Dumping Dewey Decimals

    During the physical move, assign move coordinators with decision-making authority at key points throughout the process. And most important, be prepared for the unexpected. When moving hundreds of boxes, chances are good that something bad will happen.

    At one school, movers built ramps down the stairways in order to slide boxes to the movers waiting below. Somehow, the library card catalog desk (which was supposed to have been surplused) escaped the movers at the top, crashing into the wall below and bursting into a cloud of cards, further showering the floors below. Lucky for them, modern libraries are cataloged on computers, but it still left thousands of cards to clean up.

    There is no such thing as the perfect move, but with a lot of preplanning, contingency planning, communication and organization, move managers can handle whatever surprises they may face.

    Andrea McLean is a senior associate and program director for equipment planning and logistics at Heery International. Heery is a full-service architecture, interior design, engineering, construction management and program management firm with over 1000 employees located in offices throughout the United States and Europe.

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