In this year’s Education Design Showcase, you will find examples of projects ranging from pre-school to college. Unfortunately, most children will never have the opportunity to attend a school like those featured. The average school is 40-plus years old and in less that adequate condition. Not nearly enough is being spent to maintain our educational facilities. Without proper maintenance and custodial care, even these new buildings will soon lose their luster.

When it comes to maintaining a commercial office building, benchmarks and standard abound. Not so for schools. According to the NEA,“Not only is there a tremendous difference between schools and commercial cleaning, but there are great variations in conditions and duties from one school to another. Any standard that takes this into account, would involve so many variables that it would probably be unworkable.” But not having standards does not mean that we can’t establish expectations, and that is just what National Center for Education Statistics Guide for Planning & Maintaining Schools does.

Planners, administrators and community members must agree on what constitutes“cleanliness.” While there is not a nationwide standard for describing standards of cleanliness, a five-tiered system of expectations is emerging to help guide decision-making:

• Level 1 cleaning results in a “spotless” building, as might normally be found in a hospital environment or corporate suite. At this level, a custodian with proper supplies and tools can clean approximately 10,000 to 11,000 sq. ft. in an eight-hour period.

• Level 2 cleaning is the uppermost standard for most school cleaning, and is generally reserved for restrooms, special education areas, kindergarten areas or food service areas. A custodian can clean approximately 18,000 to 20,000 sq. ft. in an eight-hour shift.

• Level 3 cleaning is the norm for most school facilities. It is acceptable to most stakeholders and does not pose any health issues. A custodian can clean approximately 28,000 to 31,000 sq. ft. in eight hours.

• Level 4 cleaning is not normally acceptable in a school environment. Classrooms would be cleaned every other day, carpets would be vacuumed every third day, and dusting would occur once a month. At this level, a custodian can clean 45,000 to 50,000 sq. ft. in eight hours.

• Level 5 cleaning can very rapidly lead to an unhealthy situation. Trash cans might be emptied and carpets vacuumed on a weekly basis. One custodian can clean 85,000 to 90,000 sq. ft. in an eight-hour period.

The figures above are estimates. The actual number of square feet per shift a custodian can clean will depend on additional variables, including the type of flooring, wall covers and number of windows, all of which must be taken into account when determining workload expectations.

The condition of our educational facilities is not a superficial concern. Research shows there is a direct correlation between facility condition and student achievement, facility condition and occupant health, facility condition and student behavior, facility condition and student safety, just to name a few.

In addition, the condition of our educational facilities affects the perception students, staff and the community have of their schools, and ultimately their support for those schools. If we aren’t being good stewards and taking care of the facilities that we have, why should they pass another bond issue?

Lack of funding is one barrier to good maintenance that must be overcome, but many districts are getting students, staff and community involved in many aspects of the cleaning process. Schools offer a unique setting when it comes to cooperative cleaning. With a few programs like this in place, the custodians save time, the districts save money and facility condition is improved.

As you look through our Education Design Showcase at the new facilities being built, think about what your district can do to get students, staff, parents and community involved in keeping our schools safe and clean. If you have any ideas you would like to share with our readers, let me know. Just drop me an email at . Let’s make every school a source of community pride.