Planning a School Parking Lot

Parking lots in general use similar design philosophies. There has to be enough space for all the clientele who will be parked at a location, there should also be safe and convenient means to get to the building after parking. The parking lot should be on a flat surface…the list goes on. But what about parking at a school? How should parking be different for a school than other places, like businesses or government offices? What special considerations are unique to places of education? What makes a school different from most other places, and how do the roads, transportation, and parking around it reflect those differences?

Start with general parking lot design


Parking lot size is one of the most important factors in building a new lot. This is relatively easy to predict with a school. The amount of students is a known quantity, as are the teachers and administrative/support staff. Although schools might have athletic or other events that bring in guests, those typically happen during hours when class isn’t in session, so the lot will be empty of its normal tenants. 

Already schools show some major differences. High schools and universities have a class base that can drive. Larger lots are required because students will drive and leave their cars during class. Elementary and middle schools can have much smaller parking lots because the students are typically dropped off by buses or their parents. Even high schools probably don’t need lots that operate at the full capacity of their students — many students at high schools can’t drive yet, and many still take school buses. 

Pavement thickness

Once you get an idea of the amount and concentration of cars on the lot, you will know what kind of weight the pavement will be holding each day. Choosing pavement of the right thickness/resilience is key in building a long-lived parking lot. An elementary school can get away with a less resilient lot as well, as only a few cars (belonging to teachers and school staff) will be parked there for long periods.

Use of space in the lot

Angles of the parking spaces

As high schools and often colleges have newer drivers, it’s best to choose angles that are simple and easy for cars to get into. Angles at 45-60 degrees are great for parking lots with high turnover rates — but schools aren’t that. Most people parking at schools will stay for at least several hours of class. They might leave for lunch, and then again after school. 


A school absolutely needs to have the best and clearest signage and pavement markings. Safety is of utmost importance at a school, so there should be highly visible signs everywhere. Guest, student, and staff parking also needs to be clearly demarcated.


Many schools have differently abled students. They will therefore need to accommodate those students on the way from their cars/buses to their classes. Wheelchair ramps at parking spaces, handicapped marking spaces, and possibly precautions for deaf or blind students are a requirement for a public place of learning.

For more details on general parking lot design, take a look at this article


One of the main concerns of a school is safety. In any place with hundreds of young people, safety is of utmost importance. High schools have sports and various outside activities, so the lot should be placed away from where these take place. Crosswalks in and outside the parking lot also need to be clearly marked, for any type of school. Often for pick-up and drop-off zones, only one-way traffic is permitted for safer, more efficient, and more easily-controlled vehicle circulation.

Elementary schools tend to have lots of young children running around before and after school — hence the 25 mph school zone speed limit nearby. Because of the tendency of young children to be unpredictable, parking lots are often placed around the back or sides of the school — away from the main entrance. If there is traffic access to the main entrance, it is usually a pick-up/drop-off loop for parents that is carefully controlled by school staff. Long story short, elementary and middle schools should have their lots placed away from the main entrance of the building. 

Designers should plan and construct parking lots according to the school’s transportation requirements. They should know how the school and its entrances will be used, including access points and bus requirements. 

Decreasing risks to the students can come in a variety of forms. For high schools, with new and accident-prone drivers, hardening existing structures is a good idea to prevent property damage from car crashes. Additional security, such as CCTV, ID requirements to park during school hours, and parking perimeter buffer zones can be implemented. 

Planning for maintenance

Fortunately, this is slightly less difficult with a school. Although accidents can happen that cause sudden and severe damage, most maintenance on a lot happens because of the slow and steady degradation from use. Thanks to the nature of the school year, there are long periods during the summer when the school is not operating, or operating at a fraction of its usual capacity. During summer vacation is the perfect time to perform lot repair and maintenance operations. This kind of activity might hurt businesses that rely on clients year-round, but it won’t affect students on summer break.

What to do if you need a parking lot built?

Does this all seem a little overwhelming when it comes to something as seemingly simple as asphalt paving? If your school, university, or business needs its parking needs met, Reliable Paving is here to help. Our highly professional and experienced team is happy to take a look at your needs for a parking lot, and offer a free quote. If you are looking for paving contractors with an eye for detail, safety, and who can provide/give advice regarding maintenance, then you have come to the right place. Get in contact with us today and we can start on parking lot that meets and exceeds your expectations.