- By Edward M. McMilin
- June 1st, 2006
In School Planning and Management’s 2006 Construction Report, Paul Abramson reported that $21.6 billion of school construction was put in place, with another $20.2 billion to be completed in 2006. Most of this construction resulted from a significant amount of planning and design input from stakeholders at the local school level to ensure the educational needs of students were met, and many hours of work to pass bond referendums to finance this construction. School districts did an excellent job of developing programs, estimating future enrollments and determining the new space required to meet these needs. These efforts served their expansion of capacity needs very well.
While this investment in new facilities is significant, the new buildings represent only a small fraction of all the existing school buildings nationally. Existing school buildings represent more than 95 percent of the facilities now serving the nation’s 54 million students. We cannot lose sight that many of these facilities have fallen victim to a lack of maintenance and need significant work. Unfortunately, of the total funds, only $3.87 billion or 17.9 percent, and $3.32 billion or 16.4 percent, were spent on retrofit or maintenance-type projects in 2005 and 2006 respectively. It is expected that even less will be spent on these types of projects in the future. While these expenditures were significant, there has been little done to reduce the enormous backlog that currently exists.
Many corporations are beginning to use strategic facility planning as a means to guide and manage their facilities. They have found the careful long-range planning and management of their facilities is an important element of their overall corporate strategy and a major contributor to their growth and income. They view their facilities as an important asset to the bottom line, and that the condition of their buildings directly relates to the productivity of their employees.
The condition of the nation’s school buildings has been well documented. Estimates are that $112 to $150 billion is needed to bring the nation’s schools up to good condition. At this time, 30 percent of the nation’s schools require extensive repairs, while another 40 percent require replacement of at least one major building component. The American Society of Civil Engineer’s Report Card for American Infrastructure scored school buildings withD, stating that 75 percent of the existing facilities are inadequate for education. What caused this situation? As districts struggle to keep educational costs at acceptable levels, funds for maintenance have traditionally been the first thing reduced from budgets, because it was presumed that expenditures had no direct relationship to student outcome. A number of recent studies have shown that assumption to be incorrect and demonstrate that the condition of school buildings have a direct relationship to student achievement — especially in urban settings.
Schools must now take a page from corporate America. What is needed is an effort to involve all stakeholders in a systematic planning effort to create plans related to preservation of capacity. Plans for preservation of capacity include those needs to ensure that the district’s existing facilities are well maintained, safe and healthful, and in compliance with the myriad of national, state and local codes and regulations. Development of a quality maintenance program is the major element of this planning effort.
Types of Maintenance
Maintaining our school buildings is not just fixing things when they break, but involves a number of different actions. Although each community has different names, there are generally six types of maintenance.
1. Capital Maintenance.
These are projects related to the replacement of the major building components, such as roofs, boilers, etc., based upon their condition relative to components of the same type. Because of their cost, these projects are usually budgeted for on an annual basis as part of a maintenance budget or as part of a bond referendum.
2. Infrastructure Maintenance. These are projects that are made to the building to repair damage or breakdowns of building systems. These are made on an as-needed basis (usually daily) and are usually funded as part of the district operating budget.
3. Educational Maintenance.
These are projects that are made to items related to the school program. Examples include copier repair, repairs to equipment (such as industrial education machines) used in the school program and repairs inside the building caused by vandalism. These are also made on an as-needed basis, and they can either be funded as part of the district operations budget or individual school budgets.
4. Preventive Maintenance. These are actions that are taken to prevent future repairs to building systems or equipment. Examples include changing oil in vehicles or equipment, change filters on HVAC equipment, routine maintenance to equipment used as part of the educational program, etc. These are usually done on a scheduled basis (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) and are usually completed by district facility personnel located either centrally or at a school site.
5. Deferred Maintenance.
These are major projects to the building or systems that have been delayed due to funding inadequacies. These projects would normally be funded as part of the capital maintenance or infrastructure district budget. Deferral over an extended period of time usually results in major capital cost to replace all or part of the facility.
6. Cleaning. These are activities related to keeping the building clean and sanitary, including an integrated pest management program. These activities occur on a daily basis and are funded as part of the school budget and are completed by the school custodial staff.
Why is a quality cleaning program an important component of a strategic maintenance program? A quality cleaning program will:
increase indoor air quality;
prolong the life of building components and equipment;
increase attendance by creating sanitary environments, thereby eliminating conditions that cause illnesses;
reinforce the perception that the building is well maintained by keeping grafitti removed, paper and trash removed, and providing an environment conducive to learning; and
include preventive maintenance, like changing filters to increase operating efficiency of building systems and contribute to better indoor air quality.
Quality Preservation of Capacity Programs
All quality plans for preservation of capacity have common characteristics, even though they may be structured in a variety of ways. Each plan implements a sustained strategy of addressing the needs of the existing buildings and are characterized by what I refer to as the Five Cs.
1. Comprehensive — the program must address the issues on a broad front, covering all building elements and equipment; compliance with all mandates and code requirements (ADA, asbestos, etc); addressing all types of maintenance including deferred maintenance; and include a high-quality cleaning program that will reduce future costs.
2. Consistent — the program, while funded annually, must plan for efforts through a multiyear period, such as five years, so that future needs are identified and enable flexibility to prioritize projects to respond to funding variations.
3. Continuous — the plan must be implemented and funded annually so that it becomes part of the culture of the district. Every attempt must be made to always fund the plan annually so that no funding gaps occur. This is important because it is even more difficult to re-budget funds after a hiatus in funding than to initially start a program and fund it continuously. Continuous funding, regardless of the level, enables the plan to become part of the culture of the district because it has become a priority for inclusion in the district budget.
4. Creative — the plan must be responsive to new ideas, incorporate the use of new materials, incorporate different management techniques and always look for sources of funds normally not associated with maintenance to use for this purpose. Likewise, the district should always look for ways to incorporate maintenance needs into other projects wherever possible.
5. Commitment — there is a commitment by the board, senior management, local government officials and all other stakeholders that maintaining the school plant is a priority. The program can be developed knowing there is the willingness to attempt to provide the necessary personnel and financial resources to implement the program.
Creating the Plan
Creating a plan for preservation of capacity uses the same process as the one used to successfully build consensus to build a new school and involves all stakeholders. The first step in the development of any plan for maintenance is to determine the condition of all of the facilities and their individual components. This is best accomplished by conducting a districtwide physical assessment utilizing a common evaluation instrument. This assessment will provide data on the age and condition of the building components. Many districts have developed their own instruments because of their size or special needs, but evaluation tools can be found, which will serve the needs of small and medium-size districts. One of the most comprehensive is theGuide for School Facility Appraisal, developed by Harold Hawkins and Edward Lilly, which is available through the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI). This assessment is best accomplished using district facility personnel, since they are most familiar with the buildings. For those districts that do not have staff, there are numerous qualified consultants available who can provide this service. Professional organizations, such as CEFPI, can provide districts with assistance in locating qualified consultants.
Once the data on the facilities has been collected, each component for each facility needs to be assigned a value representing the expected life. For example, an elevator could have an expected life of 40 years before it should be replaced. Next, a replacement cost is determined. This information, when combined with the data collected through the assessment, will enable a long-range plan for each component to be developed. All of the components are then prioritized and costs are distributed throughout the planning period to enable a consistent funding level to be determined.
When the assessment is complete, the data can be compiled and shared with the stakeholders to use in developing the plan for maintenance. It is important that the data be displayed so all members of the planning team can easily and clearly understand it, yet contain as much information as possible. The following excerpts from the Milwaukee Public Schools Cyclic Maintenance Plan is a good example.
After each component is completed, the total plan can be assembled into a document for approval by the board and/or voters.
Financing any plan is the ultimate test of the commitment by the board and community. This is the point where another of the plan’s characteristics — consistency — comes into play. It is a key element in establishing and sustaining the maintenance plan. Start small and build upon successes. Hopefully your plan has taken that into consideration already. Funding for the plan should come from a variety of sources, rather than rely on a single source.
A quality maintenance plan and other preservation of capacity activities provide an essential element in any long-range facilities plan, because their funding enables districts to provide needed new space to meet population changes or program initiatives in the most timely manner possible, without having to divert scarce resources for replacing existing school space, which has deteriorated due to neglect. Experience has shown that postponing, deferring or simply ignoring maintenance needs will only create additional needs for new school buildings in order to ensure that all students have the opportunity to meet their educational outcomes in the safest, healthiest and best maintained facilities possible. A quality maintenance program will actually save money through time and permit districts to make the most efficient use of scarce financial resources.
Edward M. Mc Milin is the President of E. Mc Milin Planning Services LLC. He is the former Facilities Planner for the Milwaukee Public Schools where he served for 32 Years.