The current state of the nation's school facilities is deteriorating to the point of crisis. Despite the fact that federal standards for education infrastructure, including technology acquisition and upgrades to things like Internet connectivity, are becoming more common, many schools are finding it hard to reconcile the need to upgrade with current maintenance levels.
Unfortunately, this isn't an issue that is equally experienced by all. While the Center For Green Schools indicated that schools across the U.S. are pushing an average age of half a century, the base level of maintenance between those in more affluent areas is vastly different than that of those schools in poorer parts of the country. This can have far-reaching consequences for students, as well as faculty and staff.
There is an income gap when it comes to school maintenance
As you may expect, there are sometimes drastic differences in levels of quality at wealthy schools versus those of poorer ones. The Center for Green Schools' report details how this can be most markedly seen in urban areas - according to the Center's statistics, 67 percent of students at inner city schools indicated inadequate or obsolete buildings, equipment or infrastructure.
This manifests in many key ways that affect students directly. For example, the report indicated that only 37 percent of high-poverty schools contained science labs at the K-12 level, compared with 51 percent of schools that were more affluent. Similarly, only 50 percent of low-income schools were reported to have art rooms, compared to 80 percent of higher-income institutions. Thus the issue extends beyond maintenance to one of accessibility and equal opportunity for all students across the nation. This is of particular importance with the adoption of Common Core - schools that are inadequately equipped may have a much harder time meeting these minimum standards for student performance.
"It's a common thought that squeaky wheels get the grease"
What can lower-income schools do?
Despite the demonstrable difference in the quality of lower-income buildings versus higher-income ones, there are steps that administrators and facilities teams can take to help bring their institutions up to standards as much as possible. As with most planned maintenance success, the trick is to stay on top of deferred maintenance and to avoid a backlog if possible.
It's a common thought that squeaky wheels get the grease, but in an environment where funding is already somewhat limited, fixing minor issues or even taking preventive steps can save significant amounts of time and money over ignoring them until they become glaring problems.
Focus on problem areas
Another way to tackle the administrative problem of maintenance inequity is to identify which areas are most important, and dedicate your resources there. For example, the Center for Green Schools identified indoor air quality as one of the most important building-related determiners of student success. With this in mind, administrators can use that information as a guidepost when planning their repair operations, or even when budgeting out capital spending for the coming years.