Dave Peterson is the assitant director of administrative, logistical, and operations support for Fairfax Couty Public Schools, Fairfax, Virginia. Larry Schoff is a senior research associate with the University of Tennessee/Department of Energy/Rebuild America, Oakridge, Tennessee.
The 1995 GAO Report identified over $112 billion in needed repairs, renovations, and modernizations for the public schools in the United States. This need does not include the requirement for new construction due to growth, changes in instructional programs, or changes in technology. In addition, the 1994-95 profile of the nation's public schools revealed that the median school district is approximately 1,040 students. Approximately 60 percent of the 15,000 districts in the nation have fewer than 1,500 students, while only 5.3 percent of these districts have more than 10,000 students. However, this 5.3 percent accounts for more than 48 percent of the total U.S. public school students. In addition to the 80,000 + public schools, there are more than 20,000 private K-12 schools, thus making the total requirement even larger.
The school facilities in the United States range in age from over 100 years to less than a year. The oldest school facilities are located in both rural and urban areas. These have to be renovated and maintained for totally different reasons. In the rural areas, these facilities are part of the community and the available funding bases are extremely limited. Urban areas are faced with limited space for new facilities and a limited funding base. Suburban areas of the nation have the newest school facilities, because this is where the recent growth has taken place in the past 25 to 30 years.
Elimination of deficiencies identified in the GAO report and those identified since the report will require increasing public financing, while the number of citizens having students in public schools continues to decline. School facilities are part of the infrastructure of any community. Thus when these requirements are added to other needed infrastructure improvements (water, sewer, and roads), the total requirement becomes staggering. The main revenue sources for states and local governments continue to be through taxes sales, real estate, and income. Improvement to existing school facilities will take the efforts and understanding of all parties involved: citizens, school administrators, school planners, school board members, and facility managers.
Understanding is the key. Therefore, the need is amplified for professional facilities managers to sort out the priorities and effectively apply available resources to rectify the most critical problems. Additionally, the future maintenance and renovation needs must be programmed and funded within the district's ability to provide resources. There exists no easy formula for prioritizing these issues, but efforts must be made to identify the magnitude of facility needs within each district and provide solutions.
Many of the nations' school districts do not have professional facilities managers to guide the educational administrators and school boards in their decisions concerning facilities needs. In most cases, these school districts rely on local contractors to patch up today's crisis. Even in some of our larger school districts, the lack of proper and effective facilities management input into budget decisions has been painfully obvious in national headlines. Part of the APPA K-12 challenge, therefore, becomes dissemination of knowledge and education to school districts seeking to professionalize their facilities management staff. As an established channel for educational facilities information, APPA is a natural avenue to reach out to the K-12 community.
The need for educational and professional development can be addressed using one or more of the following approaches.
A clearinghouse of available information dealing with K-12 school planning design, construction, operation, and maintenance should be available to all. The clearinghouse would also serve as a resource for practitioners to share information on problems solved or actions taken with one another. The clearinghouse would allow the small rural school districts to share in the achievements and knowledge of larger schools districts, which is currently outside their available resources. This will allow the limited resources available to achieve its maximum impact with the improvement to school facilities across the nation.
With the acknowledged need for educational opportunities and professional development, the increased attendance in the Institute of Facilities Management by K-12 facilities professionals should be seriously explored. Areas of growth for K-12 facilities practitioners in the areas of planning, budget development, community outreach, preventive maintenance, and benchmarking, to name a few, are ripe for preparing our colleagues for the challenges of the 21st Century.
APPA has led the way before. It appears that the opportunity and need to continue that journey is alive and well in the K-12 community. With its long and distinguished history of attention to educational facilities needs, APPA's K-12 initiative can be a breath of fresh air to public and private school districts in North America and worldwide.