ERIC Identifier: ED301967
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Klauke, Amy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Repairing and Renovating Aging School Facilities. ERIC Digest
Series Number EA28.
Along with roads and highways, schools are one of the United States' largest
infrastructure investments. The nations' 80,000 schools suffer under a $25
billion backlog of repair and would cost nearly $240 billion to replace. To
exacerbate the situation, recent influxes of baby boomers coupled with state
reforms reducing student-teacher ratios are stretching the limits on available
school facilities across the country.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF AGING SCHOOL
Within the next ten years, a large number of shoddily constructed
school buildings from the fifties and sixties will need immediate attention.
Many of these schools, once expected to survive seventy-five years without major
repairs, are in dire need of maintenance overhaul. Because "many districts have
failed to maintain their buildings . . . breakdowns are occurring earlier and
are more serious" (Montague 1987).
A Council of Great City Schools' report (1985) warns that "without a massive
injection of capital improvements, schools in urban districts will continue to
deteriorate." One-third of urban schools are more than fifty years old. Where
the need increases, the resources dwindle.
WHAT ARE THE FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF RESTORING SCHOOL FACILITIES?
Thomas Werner noted in 1984 that "the recent economic slump
with its concomitant reduction of tax proceeds, has brought most maintenance
projects to a halt. Where projects have been approved, money has not been
appropriated." According to the Council of Great City Schools, school officials
are only spending an average of 3.3 percent of their total budget on
maintenance--one half of what they spent four years ago.
Montague refers to a 1983 study showing a 20 percent dip over ten years in
the approval rate for bonds, which are the most common source of funds for
school maintenance projects. To make matters worse, construction costs have
risen faster than the general inflation rate, and, as Montague says,
"construction needs must compete for funding with such other reforms as higher
Most school districts follow a deferred maintenance schedule that often
endlessly postpones restoration work. Safety items, however, remain the
exception, usually cutting into the established maintenance budget. For
instance, asbestos replacement and removal eats up nearly 20 percent of the
repair budget in Los Angeles schools. Recent, stricter regulations from the EPA
will only increase such percentages.
WHAT ROLE SHOULD STATES PLAY?
More financial support will
have to come from the states, authorities say. The National Governor's
Association (1988) reports that sixteen states provide no financing for school
construction and many others provide only minimal support. This pattern may have
to change. As the NGA report states, "the facilities issue is of such magnitude
that it can not be left solely to the tradition of local control." Another
important state role, the NGA report says, "is to keep better track of school
facilities needs . . . through a statewide inventory system." Each year the
state could survey school buildings for maintenance and repair needs, compliance
with building codes, handicapped access, asbestos removal, and energy
WHAT METHODS ARE SCHOOL DISTRICTS USING TO IMPROVE THE SOLUTION?
Many school districts are trying to communicate the seriousness
of the problem to their communities in an effort to build understanding and
establish credibility. For example, Michigan's Whitmore Lake Public School
District asked staff members to help identify problems and needed repairs,
solicited recommendations and cost estimates from local trade specialists, and
sought the advice of local building experts. The result was improved community
relations and broader-based support.
As a method to raise funds for school construction, a 1986 California law
authorizes school districts to collect revenue from developers of construction
projects within the districts' boundaries. Many districts are also establishing
detailed databases that list project costs and priorities. Considering
restoration projects as planned maintenance and energy management, rather than
deferred maintenance, has lent greater credibility and clarity to restoration
Another funding solution is to lease out available space for government or
private use. Ted Schwinden (1986) recommends offering space for quality
child-care services, currently in high demand. "Schools used for the benefit of
the community," he says, "are less prone to vandalism." Also, when people come
into the schools for recreational or other activities, they better understand
the need for renovation and are more likely to support school bond issues.
WHAT IS A CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN?
Kenneth Ducote (1984),
in a proposal for the New Orleans public school system, suggests implementing a
capital improvement plan--a practical, comprehensive, and organized approach to
capital projects. Capital improvement plans include a detailed inventory of
physical assets (complete with a ranking system to differentiate essential,
desirable, acceptable, and deferrable projects) and include current and
projected cost estimates. The plan sets out procedures for conducting financial
analysis and indicates channels for restoration requests, methods of
accountability, and monitoring criteria Effective capital improvement plans are
coordinated and implemented by a trained, diverse team of specialists, school
boards members, the superintendent, school staff members, and the community.
WHAT ARE SOME ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER WHEN REPAIRING OR RENOVATING SCHOOL FACILITIES?
As Tom Smith (1984) points out, "Facilities
should further the academic standards of the school: if they are inadequate or
inaccessible, the academic program can not be wholly successful."
Both Public Law 94-142 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
require that school facilities be made accessible for handicapped children.
Renovation should also ensure that facilities are brought up to safety
Energy-conservation should be a major consideration in any renovation
process. The Topeka School District has designed a computer program that
analyzes energy consumption, helping them cut annual energy costs by 20 percent
in one building. Insulation, energy-efficient windows, solar heating, and
temperature control are effective energy saving measures. Ted Clark (1984) urges
"that all capital improvements, from major maintenance to new construction,
contain as much 'state of the art' conservation techniques as money will allow."
Contemporary school design includes features such as movable walls, builtin
computer wiring, and ventilation systems that can be altered when rooms are
Studies into theories of humanistic architecture, as well as solicitations of
suggestions from school members, may offer ways to transform sterile, alienating
spaces into rooms agreeable both to students and staff. (In one case, a school
district invited students and community members to repaint an old gymnasium.)
Broad ownership in the redesign and restoration of a school facility can
encourage collective responsibility toward a building and thus prepare for its
Carroll, Charles W. "Adaptive Reuse: Alternative
to Vacant Schools. Cincinnati: The Midas Touch." AMERICAN SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITY
56, 7 (March 1984): 52, 54. EJ 295 104.
Clark, Ted. "Monitoring and Conserving Energy Usage in Existing Educational
Buildings." CEFP JOURNAL 22, 3 (May-June 1984): 21-22. EJ 299 533.
Council of Great City Schools. OVERALL EVALUATION OF THE EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT
PROGRAM. Washington, DC: CGCS, December 1985.
Ducote, Kenneth J. "Capital Improvements Programming: A Proposal for a
Revised Process to Develop the Annual Capital Budget for the Orleans Parish
School Board. Revised." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the
International Society for Educational Planning, New Orleans, October 17-19,
1984. 25 pages. ED 254 934.
Montague, William. "Districts Scramble to Cope with Building Needs."
EDUCATION WEEK 6, 36 (June 3, 1987): 1, 19, 20.
National Governors' Association. THE GOVERNORS' 1991 REPORT ON EDUCATION.
RESULTS IN EDUCATION: 1988. Washington, DC: NGA, 1988. 78 pages.
Schwinden, Ted. "What Are Schools For?" PHI DELTA KAPPAN 68, 4 (November
1986): 223-24. EJ 343 778.
Smith, Tom E.C. "Opening Doors." AMERICAN SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITY 56, 6
(February 1984): 64, 66. EJ 294 864.
Stephens, Gail. "Local Tradespeople Bailed Us out of a Facilities Debacle."
THE EXECUTIVE EDUCATOR 7, 3 (March 1985): 20, 35. EJ 313 692.
Werner, Thomas. "Things Fall Apart." AMERICAN SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITY 56, 6
(February 1984): 54, 56, 58, 63. EJ 294 863.