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Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities
Chapter 1
  Introduction to School Facilities Maintenance Planning
Chapter 2
    Planning for School Facilities Maintenance
Chapter 3
    Facility Audits: Knowing What You Have
Chapter 4
    Providing a Safe Environment for Learning
Chapter 5
    Maintaining School Facilities and Grounds
Chapter 6
    Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors
Chapter 7
    Evaluating Facilities Maintenance Efforts
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Chapter 1
Introduction to School Facilities Maintenance Planning

  Graphic of Checkmark To explain how clean, orderly, safe, cost-effective, and instructionally supportive school facilities enhance education
  Graphic of Checkmark To introduce the purpose, structure, and format of the Planning Guide

When maintaining a school, we pay not only for bricks and mortar, but also student and staff well-being. Effective school maintenance protects capital investment, ensures the health and safety of our children, and supports educational performance.

Why Does Facilities Maintenance Matter?

As America's school buildings age, we face the growing challenge of maintaining school facilities at a level that enables our teachers to meet the needs of 21st century learners. While the construction of new school facilities supports this task, many older buildings have developed modularly over time. A 1920s-era school may have gotten an addition in 1950, which in turn got an addition in 1970, and yet another addition in 1990. The task of caring for these old school buildings, some of which are historically or architecturally significant, at a level that supports contemporary instructional practices is substantial. At the same time, maintaining the finely tuned workings of new, more technologically advanced facilities also demands considerable expertise and commitment.

Image of KeysThus, it is perhaps not surprising that facilities issues arise at all educational levels, prekindergarten through post-secondary, and all sites, both school buildings and administrative offices alike. Challenges arise in both new and old facilities, although the types of concerns may differ. For example, even a brand-new building may have problems with inadequate air circulation, which can lead to indoor air quality (IAQ) problems unless remedied. Older buildings, on the other hand, more frequently face age-related issues such as inefficient energy systems that can lead to uncomfortable indoor climate and high utility bills.

What causes facilities problems? Certainly extreme environmental conditions and a lack of maintenance funding contribute to building deterioration. But many facilities problems are not a function of geography or socioeconomic factors but are, instead, related to maintenance staffing levels, training, and management practices.

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

"Pay me now or pay me later," barked the man on the TV commercial for car oil filters. The underlying message in the ad was clear: If you spent a few dollars now to change the filter in your car, you could avoid more expensive repairs in the future. This is "preventive maintenance" in its simplest form— spending a little money now to perform regular inspections and maintenance in order to minimize future big-ticket costs and prolong the functional lifetime of buildings and equipment.

- Frank Norwood, Director of Maintenance & Operations, Katy (TX), Independent School District

(Adapted with permission from the Texas Association of School Business Officials)

Because we know that routine and unexpected maintenance demands are bound to arise, every education organization must proactively develop and implement a plan for dealing with these inevitabilities. Thus, an organization must plan to meet the challenges of effective facilities maintenance. It is simply too big of a job to be addressed in a haphazard fashion. After all, the consequences affect teaching and learning, student and staff health, day-to-day building operations, and the long-range fiscal outlook of the organization.

Image of KeysA sound facilities maintenance plan serves as evidence that school facilities are, and will be, cared for appropriately. On the other hand, negligent facilities maintenance planning can cause real problems. Large capital investment can be squandered when buildings and equipment deteriorate or warranties become invalidated. Failing to maintain school facilities adequately also discourages future public investment in the education system.

However, school facilities maintenance is concerned about more than just resource management. It is about providing clean and safe environments for children. It is also about creating a physical setting that is appropriate and adequate for learning. A classroom with broken windows and cold drafts doesn't foster effective student learning. However, neither does an apparently state-of-the-art classroom that is plagued with uncontrollable swings in indoor temperature, which can negatively affect student and instructor alertness, attendance, and even health.

School facilities maintenance affects the physical, educational, and financial foundation of the school organization and should, therefore, be a focus of both its day-to-day operations and long-range management priorities.

Effective facilities maintenance extends the life of older facilities and maximizes the useful life of newer facilities.

Who Should Read This Document?

Meeting legal standards with regard to facilities maintenance is the bare minimum for responsible school management. Planners must also strive to meet the spirit of the laws and the long-term needs of the organization.

Because facilities maintenance planning is constrained by real world budgets, planners must often think in terms of trade-offs. Thus, they must weigh routine tasks against preventive maintenance that pays off only over the long run, while always needing to be prepared for emergency responses to broken air conditioners, cracked pipes, and severe snow storms. The difficult job of planning for facilities maintenance is most effective when it relies upon up-to-date information about the condition and use of buildings, campuses, equipment, and personnel. Thus, staff who are intimately involved in the day-to-day assessment, repair, and maintenance of school facilities must also play an active role in the facilities maintenance planning process. Yet facilities maintenance planning is not solely the responsibility of the facilities department. Effective planning requires coordination of resources and commitment at all levels of the education organization.

Graphic of School Facilities Maintenance Planning  Priorities

School facilities maintenance affects the physical, educational, and financial foundation of the school organization and should, therefore, be a focus of both its day-to-day operations and long-range management priorities.

Image of KeysOur vision for this Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities is to encourage information-based decision-making in this crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of schools management. Because no two school districts face precisely the same challenges, this Planning Guide does not attempt to provide a single template for an all-inclusive facilities maintenance plan. Rather it focuses on best practices that can be undertaken to develop a plan that meets the unique needs of an education organization.

Good facilities maintenance costs money...

There is no question about it. But unlike many other investments, the return on the expenditure may not result in increased revenues. Instead, facilities maintenance produces savings by:

1. decreasing equipment replacement costs over time

2. decreasing renovation costs because fewer large-scale repair jobs are needed

3. decreasing overhead costs (such as utility bills) because of increased system efficiency

Purpose of This Planning Guide

This Planning Guide is intended to help school administrators, staff, and community members better understand why and how to develop, implement, and evaluate a facilities maintenance plan.

Audience for This Planning Guide

The primary audience of this Planning Guide is staff at the local school district level, where most facilities maintenance is planned, managed, and carried out. This includes board members, superintendents, business officials, principals, facilities managers, maintenance personnel, and custodians. Secondary audiences include state education agency staff, community members, vendors, regulatory agencies, and students in education administration courses.

Facilities maintenance planning is not solely the responsibility of the facilities department. Effective planning requires coordination of resources and commitment at all levels of the education organization.

In a Nutshell...

Experience at the local, state, and national levels suggests that effective school facility maintenance planning can:

  Graphic of Checkmark contribute to an organization's instructional effectiveness and financial well-being
  Graphic of Checkmark improve the cleanliness, orderliness, and safety of an education organization's facilities
  Graphic of Checkmark reduce the operational costs and life cycle cost of a building
  Graphic of Checkmark help staff deal with limited resources by identifying facilities priorities proactively rather than reactively
  Graphic of Checkmark extend the useful life of buildings
  Graphic of Checkmark increase energy efficiency and help the environment

The Planning Guide does the following:

  Graphic of Checkmark argues that school facility maintenance is a vital component in the responsible management of an education organization
  Graphic of Checkmark focuses specifically on the needs of an education audience (i.e., it is written specifically for education administrators and staff at the building, campus, district, and state levels)
  Graphic of Checkmark stresses strategies and procedures for planning, implementing, and evaluating effective maintenance programs
  Graphic of Checkmark describes a process, not a canned set of "one size fits all" solutions
  Graphic of Checkmark includes "best practice" recommendations, not mandates
  Graphic of Checkmark supports recommendations from another National Forum on Education Statistics publication, Facilities Information Management: A Guide for State and Local School Districts (

This Planning Guide is not:

  Image of 'x' mark a how-to manual of maintenance procedures and instructions
  Image of 'x' mark an attempt to dictate policy-making in local and state education agencies (although it can and should serve as a guide to policy-makers as they consider their options and needs)

Effective school facilities maintenance plans have...

Administrators who:

  Graphic of Checkmark recognize that facility maintenance contributes to the physical and financial well-being of the organization

  Graphic of Checkmark understand that school facility maintenance affects building appearance, equipment operation, student and staff health, and student learning

  Graphic of Checkmark appreciate that facility maintenance requires funding

  Graphic of Checkmark acknowledge that strategic planning for facilities maintenance is a team effort that requires input and expertise from a wide range of stakeholders

  Graphic of Checkmark coordinate facility maintenance activities throughout the organization

  Graphic of Checkmark demand appropriate implementation and evaluation of facilities maintenance plans

Facilities staff who:

  Graphic of Checkmark understand a wide range of facilities operations and issues

  Graphic of Checkmark receive training to improve their knowledge and skills related to facilities maintenance

  Graphic of Checkmark educate school and district administrators about facility operations

  Graphic of Checkmark teach other staff how they can help with facilities maintenance

  Graphic of Checkmark cooperate effectively with policy-makers and budgetary decision-makers

  Graphic of Checkmark appreciate that facility maintenance decision-making is influenced by instructional needs

Teachers who:

  Graphic of Checkmark recognize that facilities maintenance supports student learning

  Graphic of Checkmark educate students about how to treat school facilities appropriately

  Graphic of Checkmark communicate their expectations for facilities as they relate to enhancing student learning

  Graphic of Checkmark treat facilities with respect

Students who:

  Graphic of Checkmark see school facilities as their learning environment

  Graphic of Checkmark treat facilities with respect

Parents and community members who:

  Graphic of Checkmark recognize that school facilities are the training grounds for future citizens and leaders

  Graphic of Checkmark respect decision-making regarding school facility use and maintenance

  Graphic of Checkmark contribute to school facility maintenance decision-making as requested

  Graphic of Checkmark consent to the financial obligations associated with good school facility maintenance