Survey Finds a Third of US School Have Never had Major Renovations

There are a total of 115,576 schools in the USA.

Source : Caleb Oquendo, Pexels

February 23, 2024

Author : Patty Allen

A recent survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has unveiled concerning trends regarding school infrastructure across the United States. The survey, which provides insight into the condition of aging school facilities, reveals that over a third of public schools in the country have never undergone major renovations.

NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr emphasized the critical role that school facilities play in education, highlighting their impact on the health and comfort of students and staff. 

"The condition of our school facilities plays a critical role in the education of more than 49 million US public school students," explained Carr. She further said, "As such, these data provide insight into the current condition of our schools as the nation continues down the road to learning recovery."

The survey, conducted between 2020 and 2023, found that 36% of main school buildings were constructed before 1970, indicating a significant portion of aging infrastructure in many educational institutions.

Moreover, the survey found that only 13% of schools reported major renovations between 2020 and 2023. This discrepancy between the age of school buildings and the frequency of renovations raises concerns about the maintenance and modernization of school facilities.

The survey also revealed disparities in the condition of school facilities across different regions and demographic groups. For example, schools in urban and high-poverty neighborhoods were less likely to have dedicated library space than schools in rural areas and low-poverty neighborhoods.

Nearly all public schools (93%) reported having some kind of athletic amenities on-site, with the most common facilities being a gymnasium (69%), an all-purpose grass field (68%), and an outdoor basketball court (56%). While these amenities are important for student health and well-being, they also require maintenance and upkeep to ensure they remain safe and functional.

About one-third of schools (31%) currently have at least one portable building. This hints at a reliance on temporary structures to accommodate students, which may not provide the same level of safety, comfort, and educational experience as permanent buildings. 

President Joe Biden's administration has shown increased attention to K-12 indoor air quality, particularly in older school buildings. The American Society of Civil Engineers' 2021 Infrastructure Report Card gave schools a D+ grade, citing the need to update or replace multiple building systems, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

To address these challenges, some school districts have used federal pandemic-era relief funds to finance school construction projects. These projects include improvements in HVAC systems and ventilation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne viruses. However, there are concerns that supply chain and staffing issues may delay the completion of these projects.

In addition to relief funds, a federal grant program established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 aims to assist high-need school districts with infrastructure upgrades. The US Department of Education doubled the awarded funds during the program's inaugural round in 2023, highlighting the government's commitment to addressing school infrastructure needs.

The survey reported that major repair, remodeling, or modernization work was underway in 21% of all public schools as of December of the 23-24 academic year. Contractor News has been reporting on these instances.

Overall, the survey highlights the need for continued investment in school infrastructure to ensure a safe and conducive learning environment for students and staff nationwide. 

As the nation navigates the road to learning recovery, the condition of school facilities remains a critical component in supporting educational outcomes.

Category : Federal Government Investment in Infrastructure Schools

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