Building an Elementary Schedule - Part 9: Creating Alternate Schedules

3-minute read

This 12-part How to Build an Elementary School Schedule series shares expert step-by-step guidance and proven scheduling strategies to help you create better schedules this year.


By now, you should have a strong draft of your school schedule. However, there will be some days throughout the school year where things don't go as planned and that schedule won't be a fit. What happens when school doesn’t start on time (e.g. snow delay) or ends early (e.g. professional development day)? 

A best practice is to plan ahead and create alternate schedules for scenarios like these that align with your learning goals. Typical uses for alternate schedules include:

  • Delayed opening caused by weather or other factors (+ 1 hr, + 2 hr)
  • Shortened day for assemblies
  • Early release for professional development days

Here are a few steps to consider as you create alternate schedules to plan for such scenarios:

  1. Define the start and end times
  2. For each scenario, begin building the alternate schedule you need by defining the start and end time of the day. It is also helpful to name the schedule so everyone understands its purpose. For example, “One-hour delay”, “Professional Development Day”, etc.

  3. Adjust your period allocation
  4. Next, create a revised instructional minute plan based on the reduced number of minutes in the day. For example, for a one-hour delay, which periods will you shorten or eliminate to reduce your regular day by 60 minutes? Consider what this means for students if you have many of these delayed start days. Will certain students always miss core instruction? Should this alternate schedule’s subjects be reworked to avoid this?

  5. Recreate the schedule based on revised instructional minutes
  6. You can start by using your master schedule and adjusting subjects using the shorter blocks you defined. Be mindful of the constraints you had when creating your regular schedule such as lunchroom capacity and staggering specials and interventions by grade. Review your alternate schedule drafts with grade-level teams and publish them once finalized.

Elementary Scheduling Software