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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

Planning Guide Framework

This Planning Guide includes the following chapters and information:

Chapter 1: Introduction to School Facilities Maintenance Planning describes the purpose, scope, intended audience, and organization of this publication.

Chapter 2: Planning for School Facilities Maintenance discusses the vital role that facilities maintenance planning plays in the management of an effective learning environment. It also presents a process for developing a vision statement, justifying planning from a budgetary perspective, using data to inform decision-making, and identifying the components of a good facilities maintenance plan.

The condition of a school facility is not just an issue for the facility manager—it affects the staff, students, and entire educational community.

Chapter 3: Facility Audits: Knowing What You Have focuses on the necessary, but sometimes overlooked, step of inventorying school buildings and grounds. It also describes how to collect, manage, and use data from a facilities audit.

Chapter 4. Providing a Safe Environment for Learning highlights many safety-related issues that demand the absolute attention of both facilities maintenance planners and staff who are responsible for the operation of a school building.

Chapter 5. Maintaining School Facilities and Grounds details "best practice" strategies for maintaining facilities and grounds. It also reminds readers that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Chapter 6. Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors outlines "best practice" strategies for managing employees and outside contractors. It also emphasizes the importance of sound human resources management as a precondition for effective facilities maintenance.

Chapter 7. Evaluating Facilities Maintenance Efforts recommends ongoing evaluation of an education organization's facility maintenance program and presents various approaches for accomplishing this vital task.

Appendix A. Chapter Checklists combines all the chapter checklists into a single list.

Appendix B. Additional Resources combines all the chapter lists of additional resources into a single alphabetical list.

Appendix C. State School Facilities Web sites lists state-specific facilities web sites, including many developed by states and state departments of education.

An education organization must plan to meet the challenges of effective facilities maintenance. It is simply too big (and important) of a job to be addressed haphazardly.

Appendix D. Audit Form Template is a sample facility audit form designed for education organizations.

Appendix E. Record Layout for a Computerized Work Order System is a resource for education organizations as they select data elements to be included in a work order system.

Appendix F. Model Job Description for a Custodial Worker is a resource for education organizations as they develop their own job descriptions.

Appendix G. Useful Interview Questions lists questions that can guide school district personnel as they interview potential employees.

Appendix H. Using Mapping during the Interview Process describes a process that can help decision-makers identify the qualities of an "ideal" candidate for a given job.

Appendix I. Sample Customer Survey Form is a resource for school districts as they develop their own evaluation materials.

Index provides an alphabetical list of key topics in the document.

Research shows...

1. A positive relationship exists between school conditions and student achievement and behavior. 1

2. Facility condition may have a stronger effect on student performance than the influences of family background, socioeconomic status, school attendance, and behavior combined. 2

3. Students are more likely to prosper when their environment is conducive to learning. Well-designed facilities send a powerful message to kids about the importance a community places on education. 3

In Every Chapter...

Each chapter of this Planning Guide includes:

Graphic of Checkmark Table of Contents - to provide an overview and simplify navigation within the chapter

Graphic of Checkmark Chapter Goals - to state the major purposes of the chapter

Graphic of Checkmark Best Practice Recommendations - to describe how to accomplish the goals

Graphic of Checkmark Vignettes - to show how maintenance issues can play out in the real world

Graphic of Checkmark Commonly Asked Questions - to address anticipated concerns of readers

Graphic of Checkmark Checklists - to summarize recommendations

Graphic of Checkmark Additional Resources - to point readers to related information

Commonly Asked Questions

What is a facilities maintenance plan?
Image of Eagle with HammerA facilities maintenance plan details an organization's strategy for proactively maintaining its facilities. Effective maintenance plans reflect the vision and mission of the organization, include an accurate assessment of existing facilities, incorporate the perspectives of various stakeholder groups, and focus on preventive measures that ensure that capital investment is managed responsibly. As with any successful management endeavor, good facilities maintenance plans integrate best practices of planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Facilities Resources ... Just a Mouse Click Away

The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF) is the nation's primary source of comprehensive information about school planning, design, financing, construction, modernization, and maintenance issues. NCEF's web site, which can be found at, includes:

Resource Lists - current, subject-specific, compilations of information on more than 100 school facilities topics. The lists include links to online publications and related web sites, as well as descriptions of books, studies, reports, and journal articles.

Publications - concise explorations of facilities-related subjects and issues that concern educators and affect learning. Available in paper copies or online.

News – summaries of local, regional, and national developments regarding educational facilities, including links to online news stories and related NCEF information resources.

Calendar - complete and timely information on regional and national events related to school facilities.

Gallery - photographs and project information on award-winning school designs.

Construction Data - statistics on nationwide school construction activity, with links to sources of school construction and cost estimating data.

Ask A Question - responses by NCEF reference staff to school facilities questions submitted via an online question form. Queries are answered within two to four business days.

Newsletter - highlights of the most recent NCEF publications, events, and news sent to users periodically through an e-mail publication, EdFacilities Updates.

Links - links to professional organizations, federal, state, and municipal resources, academic research centers, media, and products and services.

Search - direct access through keywords or phrases to NCEF's extensive database of information about school facilities.

So whether you are searching for information about capital improvement programs, indoor air quality, or school size and security, visit or call toll-free: 888-552-0624.

Planning for school facilities maintenance helps to ensure that school buildings are: Clean, Orderly, Safe, Cost-effective and Instructionally supportive.

How will a maintenance plan make our schools better?
Learning does not occur in a vacuum. Students and staff thrive in an orderly, clean, and safe environment. Classrooms that are well ventilated, suitably lighted, and properly maintained actually facilitate learning. Poor air quality, on the other hand, negatively affects alertness and results in increased student and teacher absences, which can have a corresponding impact on student achievement. Moreover, appropriate facilities maintenance extends the life span of older facilities and maximizes the useful life of newer facilities. Thus, a facilities maintenance plan contributes to both the instructional and financial well-being of an education organization and its community.

Why should our school district rethink the facilities plan that we wrote five years ago?
Facilities plans, like buildings, don't age well unless they are maintained on an ongoing basis. For starters, maintenance strategies depend on the condition of facilities, which changes over time. If the condition of your buildings, grounds, and equipment have changed in the past five years (which they probably have), your facilities plan should be updated to clarify those steps that need to be taken to maintain these valuable assets.

Why do I need this Planning Guide to tell me how to keep our schools and grounds in good condition?
Your organization may already be keeping its schools and grounds in good condition. If so, spending a few hours reviewing the recommendations in this Planning Guide is a small investment relative to the amount of energy you already put into your facilities maintenance efforts-especially if there's a chance (and there is) that you may find something new and useful in this publication. If your organization doesn't keep its schools and grounds as well as it might, then read on.

Additional Resources

Image of School BusEvery effort has been made to verify the accuracy of all URLs in this Guide at the time of publication. If a Web address is no longer correct, try using the root directory to search for a page that may have moved. For example, if the link to is not working, try and search for "IAQ."

To err is human... but you'd like to avoid this kind of thing all the same!

Image of Eagle with HammerThe school board was happy, the community was proud, and the students were ecstatic. The high school had finally invested in a gymnasium that would meet the needs of the physical education department, the athletic department, and community organizations alike. After only four years of use, the facility looked to be in great shape, so everyone was shocked to find that school had been canceled on a Monday morning so that the maintenance staff could combat a flood that had gushed across the gym floor and into the main building.

What had happened? A $12 gasket had failed-but it happened to be the one that sealed the 40,000 gallon backup water tank that lay adjacent to the gymnasium. To make matters worse, the tank's emergency drain was covered with boxes of books (in a misguided attempt to increase the building's storage space). The unfortunate result: school was canceled for two days, the emergency response cost $26,000, and the gymnasium was closed for five weeks while $160,000 worth of repair work was performed.

How could this problem have been avoided? In truth, there were several things that could have saved the district from its woes:

  • Acceptable Maintenance - Regular equipment inspections of the backup water tank might have identified a defective
    gasket and prevented the flood.

  • Proper Planning - The water tank should have been placed in a more appropriate location than next to the gymnasium.

  • Appropriate Operations - Someone should have realized that covering an emergency drain with boxes wasn't an
    acceptable storage system!

These and other issues are addressed in this Planning Guide.

Developing a coordinated maintenance plan is the first, and most important, step in exercising control over the destiny of your school buildings!

Deteriorating School Facilities and Student Learning A report documenting that many facilities in American public schools are in disrepair-a situation with implications on the morale, health, and learning of students and teachers. Frazier, Linda M. (1993) ERIC Clearinghouse for Educational Management, Eugene, OR.

Educational Performance, Environmental Management, and Cleaning Effectiveness in School Environments A report demonstrating how effective cleaning programs enhance school and student self-image, and may promote higher academic attendance and performance. Berry, Michael A. (2001) Carpet and Rug Institute, Dalton, GA.

Facilities Information Management: A Guide for State and Local School Districts A publication from the National Forum on Education Statistics that defines a set of data elements that are critical to answering policy questions related to elementary and secondary school facility management. Facilities Maintenance Task Force, National Forum on Education Statistics (2003) National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC.

Impact of Facilities on Learning A list of links, books, and journal articles examining the association between student achievement and the physical environment of school buildings and grounds. The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, Washington, DC.

Indoor Air Quality and Student Performance A report examining how indoor air quality (IAQ) affects a child's ability to learn, including case studies of schools that successfully addressed their indoor air problems, lessons learned, and long-term practices and policies that have emerged. Indoor Environments Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2000) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.

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.

Introductory Facilities Maintenance Checklist

More information about accomplishing these checkpoints can be found on the pages listed in the right-hand column.

Accomplished Checkpoints
Yes No
    Are top-level decision-makers aware that school facilities maintenance affects the instructional and financial well-being of the organization?
    Are top-level decision-makers aware that the occurrence of facilities problems (and lack thereof ) is most closely associated with organizationally controlled issues such as staffing levels, staff training, and other management practices?
    Are top-level decision-makers aware that having a coordinated and comprehensive maintenance plan is the first and most important step in exercising control over the destiny of the organization's facilities?
    Has facilities maintenance been given priority status within the organization, as evidenced by top-level decision-makers' commitment to read this Planning Guide and refer to these guidelines while planning and coordinating facilities maintenance?
    Do the organization's facilities maintenance decision-makers include school administrators, facilities/custodial representatives, teachers, parents, students, and community members?


1 J. B. Lyons, Do School Facilities Really Impact a Child's Education? (Scottsdale, AZ: Council of Educational Facility Planners International, 2001). (

2 L. Morgan, Where Children Learn: Facilities Conditions and Student Test Performance in Milwaukee Public Schools (Scottsdale, AZ: Council of Educational Facility Planners International, 2000).

3 F. Withrow, H. Long, and G. Max, Preparing Schools and School Systems for the 21st Century (Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administrators, 1999).