Using an Educational Adequacy Assessment

By Hitesh Haria

Broken windows, peeling paint, and leaky roofs are all part of the never-ending maintenance cycle of school buildings. Yet, not until recently has the state of a building and its grounds been fully understood in terms of its impact on student learning.

Perhaps more than anything, the breakneck speed of technological advances has put the issue squarely under the microscope. The capacity to retrofit classrooms for Internet and networking connections, video, and data ports has challenged districts with how to prioritize basic repairs, remodels, expansions, and the ultimate decision to raze a building and replace it with a new one.

Sometimes it can feel like the decision-making process is random, with, forgive the pun, the squeakiest wheel often winning the competition for limited district dollars. But a squeaky-wheel approach to facilities repair is an inadequate way of distributing limited funds. In Minnesota’s Saint Paul Public Schools, we serve 40,549 students in 73 district-owned instructional and administrative campuses (7.3 million square feet). Our department receives about $230 million of yearly upgrade and remodeling requests. Our budget is $30 million.

To approach this ongoing disparity thoughtfully and responsibly, we decided it was time for a facilities master plan, which would forecast and establish capital improvements and deferred maintenance needs for several years. Because the district established a new strategic plan in 2007 and was embarking on a large-scale systems change, the timing was perfect to marry our facilities conditions assessment with an educational adequacy assessment.

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