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Condition of America's Public School Facilities: 1999
NCES: 2000032
June 2000

School Plans for Improvement

The previous chapters in this report portray the condition of public schools in 1999. However, the condition of school facilities is continuously changing. For example, districts may build new schools or extensively renovate existing schools, as well as make repairs to existing school buildings. Some of these activities occur as they are needed, but many are scheduled in district or school improvement plans. Conversely, maintenance may be deferred and buildings in need of repair may fall further into disrepair. Examining school plans for construction, renovation, repair, and replacement in the next 2 years provides a glimpse of the expected condition of school facilities in the near future.

Written Facilities Plans

One concrete indication of school planning for facilities improvements is the presence of a written long-range educational facilities plan. In 1999, 65 percent of public schools had written long-range facilities plans (Table 12). This varied somewhat by school enrollment size, locale, and region. Large schools were more likely to report having written facilities plans than were small schools (71 percent versus 55 percent). Schools in central cities were more likely than schools in rural areas or small towns to have written long range plans (70 percent versus 59 percent), and schools in the South were more likely than schools in the Midwest to have such plans (68 percent versus 56 percent). The apparent differences in the presence of a written facilities plan between schools in the Midwest and the Northeast and West is not statistically significant, partly due to the relatively large standard errors for these three estimates.

Plans for Construction

The survey asked whether schools planned to build new attached and/or detached permanent additions in the next 2 years. Overall, 20 percent of schools indicated plans to build new permanent additions in the next 2 years (Table 13). Plans to build new permanent additions did not vary significantly by school characteristics, except that schools in urban fringe areas and large towns were more likely to report construction plans for new additions than were schools located in rural areas and small towns (25 percent compared with 17 percent). Note that differences that appear large may not be statistically significant due to relatively large standard errors around the estimates, or because of the Bonferroni adjustment to the analyses.

The survey also asked if schools planned to install new temporary buildings in the next 2 years. Overall, 10 percent of public schools indicated that they had such plans (Table 13). This means that approximately 8,100 schools plan to install new temporary buildings in the next 2 years (not shown in tables). School plans to install new temporary buildings varied somewhat based upon school size, locale, region, and minority enrollment. Large schools were about three times more likely than medium or small schools to indicate plans to install new temporary buildings (18 percent versus 6 percent). Schools in urban fringe areas and large towns were more likely to report plans to install new temporary structures than were schools in rural areas and small towns (13 percent versus 7 percent). Schools located in the South and West were more likely to report plans to install new temporary buildings in the next 2 years than were schools located in the Northeast and Midwest (12 percent and 21 percent compared with 4 percent and 5 percent, respectively). Finally, schools with minority enrollments of 21 to 50 percent and more than 50 percent were more likely than schools with minority enrollments of 5 percent or less to report plans to install new temporary buildings in the next 2 years (14 percent and 13 percent compared with 6 percent, respectively).

Plans for Major Repair, Renovation, or Replacement of Building Features

About half of the schools (51 percent) planned to make major repairs, renovations, or replacements to at least one building feature in the next 2 years (Table 14). This means that approximately 39,700 schools have plans for major repairs, renovations, or replacements in the next 2 years (not shown in tables). Overall, 41 percent of schools indicated plans to complete major repairs or renovations to at least one building feature in the next 2 years, and 25 percent planned to replace at least one building feature during the next 2 years (Table 14). Among schools that planned any repair or renovation activity in the next 2 years, an average of 2.7 building features were slated for repair or renovation; among schools that planned to replace any building features, an average of 2.2 features were planned for replacement in the next 2 years (not shown in tables). Although plans for replacement did not vary significantly by school characteristics, plans for major repair or renovation varied somewhat by locale and percent minority enrollment in the school (Table 14). 37

Schools in central cities were more likely to plan repairs or renovations than were schools in rural areas or small towns (48 percent versus 36 percent). In addition, schools with more than 50 percent minority enrollment were more likely than schools with less than 5 percent minority enrollment to have plans for repairs or renovations in the next 2 years (49 percent versus 35 percent).

Plans for repair, renovation, or replacement also varied based upon the overall condition of the school. While 46 percent of schools reporting that all types of onsite buildings were in adequate or better overall condition planned at least one repair, renovation, or replacement in the next 2 years, 67 percent of schools with at least one type of onsite building in less than adequate condition reported plans to make at least one repair, renovation, or replacement (Figure 4). This means that one-third of schools with at least one type of onsite building in less than adequate condition (approximately 6,300 schools; not shown in tables) reported no plans for repair, renovation, or replacement in the next 2 years, suggesting that the physical condition of those schools may deteriorate even further in the near future.

As noted above, although about half of all schools indicated plans to renovate, repair, or replace at least one building feature, many of these schools had plans affecting only a few building features.

For each building feature, the majority of public schools (75 to 90 percent) had no plans for major repair, renovation, or replacement (Table 15). For each building feature, between 7 and 17 percent of schools indicated plans to repair or renovate it, and between 3 and 11 percent of schools reported plans to replace that building feature.

Plans to repair, renovate, or replace specific features of school buildings were examined against the school's assessment of the condition of each feature as adequate or better or less than
adequate. 38 In general, schools with adequate or better building features were more likely than those with less than adequate features to report that they had no plans for repair, renovation, or replacement (Table 16). For example, 87 percent of schools with adequate or better roofs compared with 36 percent of those with less than adequate roofs indicated that they had no plans to repair, renovate, or replace the feature. These differences were consistent for every other building feature examined in the study-framing, floors, or foundation; exterior walls, finishes, windows, or doors; interior finishes or trim; plumbing; heating, ventilation, or air conditioning; electric power; electrical lighting; and life safety features.

For every building feature examined except roofs, 50 percent or more of the schools in which a given feature was in less than adequate condition indicated that they had no plans to repair, renovate, or replace that feature in the next 2 years (Table 16). Major repairs or renovations were planned on these features by 19 to 35 percent of schools reporting them as less than adequate, and replacements were planned by 11 to 20 percent of schools reporting them as less than adequate. For schools reporting their roofs to be in less than adequate condition, 36 percent planned no repair, renovation, or replacement of the roof, 24 percent planned to make major repairs or renovations to the roof, and 40 percent planned to replace it in the next 2 years. Thus, many schools with building features in less than adequate condition may experience worsening conditions in the near future, since they do not plan to correct the inadequacy within the next 2 years.


37Note that differences that may appear large may not be statistically significant, due in part to the relatively large standard errors surrounding the estimates (because of the small sample size) and the use of the Bonferroni adjustment. These are discussed further in appendix A.

38See Table 4 for the percent of schools rating the condition of each building feature as less than adequate.

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