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School Management        < Previous



Facilities Maintenance


Q. When I was visiting our new city to choose where to live, I started by choosing the school. Someone gave me a tip that ironically had nothing to do with observing how well the school taught the 3 R's or how well-behaved the kids seemed. He told me to avoid a school with broken glass outside, messy grounds, lightbulbs out inside, and so forth. The idea was that negligent building maintenance implied negligence in the academic focus. I really believe that. Is it borne out by statistics?


Yes! And it has nothing to do with how much money is spent per pupil. If the buildings and grounds are not well-maintained, there's a direct connection with lower-than-expected test scores, no matter what the size of the school budget, or the demographics of the children and their families, might be.


Take the District of Columbia public schools. They are known to have some of the worst student achievement, and yet some of the highest spending per pupil in the country, at upwards of $13,000 per pupil per year. Nevertheless, D.C. officials said recently that they need an additional $120 million for heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical work to make the city's schools fit to hold classes.


About $80 million had just been spent on a "blitz" of repairs at half of the city's 141 schools, and officials need the additional money for repairs to the other half, said Allen Y. Lew, executive director of the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization.


He said there was a years-old backlog of repair orders. Not one year old - YEARS old.


That's the sort of management of building facilities that parents and taxpayers DON'T want to see.


While it is obvious that rising fuel prices are pushing school district utility and transportation costs through the roof, a sure sign of a well-run district is one that does not have sudden spikes in maintenance costs. Why? Because it has a systematic plan in operation for gradually upgrading and improving district facilities. That's good management, and taxpayers should expect no less.


School facilities have many key issues that affect the health, safety and attentiveness of both students and staff in schools as well as having a huge impact on school spending patterns:


Indoor air quality


Energy efficiency


Proper lighting


Sufficient energy for technology


Temperature control


Severe weather preparedness


Accident prevention


Snow removal


Equipment replacement


. . . and much, much more.

Homework: Here's a comprehensive federal government report, "Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities," with many links to articles and publications on individual topics:



By Susan Darst Williams School Management 12 2008


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