Each year we complete more than $20 billion in K-12 school construction. This is a huge investment in education and will go a long way to ease the problems caused by age, obsolescence and overcrowding. But along with building these new facilities, we need a plan to maintain them. National attention was first brought to the issue of deferred maintenance in 1983, when a joint report, The Maintenance Gap, was released by AASA, NSBA and the Council of Great City Schools. The estimated need was $25 billion. In 1989, Education Writers Association released Wolves at the Schoolhouse Door, and the number rose to $41 billion. That report stated that one-in-four school buildings were inadequate. Of those, 61 percent were in need of maintenance and repair, 43 percent were obsolete, 42 percent had environmental hazards and 13 percent were structurally unsound.

Two years later a report published by the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) in School Business Affairs put the need at $100 billion. The 1995 GAO report, School Facilities: the Condition of America’s Schools, raised the price tag to $112 billion. This report stated that one-third of schools reported having one building in need of extensive repair or replacement and 60 percent had at least one feature (roof, HVAC, etc.) in need of major repair. The GAO updated this report in 1999 and the price tag to fix our schools rose to $127 billion, with 75 percent of schools needing to spend some money on repairs, renovation and modernization. In 2000, the NEA released its report, Modernizing our Schools, and the bottom line number for infrastructure was $268.2 billion. The need for deferred maintenance funding has increased by more than 1,000 percent in 17 years — and is growing exponentially.

In an effort to help school districts more efficiently and cost-effectively maintain their facilities, the Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities was developed. Sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education, the guide is a cooperative endeavor of NCES, the National Forum on Education Statistics and ASBO. It provides practical advice on a range of topics, including how to do a facilities audit, planning for maintenance that will ensure smooth operations and avoid costly surprises, managing staff and contractors, and evaluating maintenance efforts. Guidance is offered through recommended“best practices,” rather than specific solutions assumed to pertain to all school districts. A PDF version of this guide is available free of charge on the ASBO and NCES websites at www.asbointl.org or nces.ed.gov.

ASBO is now taking things one step farther with the development of the Facilities Masters Award program. The program is designed to provide national accolades for school districts that have achieved exemplary performance in areas such as facilities maintenance planning, facility audits, environmental safety, maintenance and management, evaluating facility maintenance efforts and exemplary practices. Roger Young, chairman of the ASBO International School Facilities Management Committee and Assistant Superintendent for Finance/Facilities at Manchester Essex Regional School District in Massachusetts, said“The purposes of the Facilities Masters Award program are to improve the maintenance of school facilities, to promote best facilities maintenance practices, to help build the skills of school business officials and plant managers and to recognize school districts who have achieved the highest standards in facilities maintenance.” The foundation of the Facilities Masters Award program includes national best practices established in the Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities. With these best practices benchmarks as guidelines, school facility professionals who apply for the Facilities Masters Award will gain valuable insight into how their facility operations programs compare to national standards for excellence. All applicants will receive helpful feedback and recommendations on their facility program, and applicants that meet or exceed the award criteria will receive the prestigious Facilities Masters Award.

To learn more about ASBO’s Facilities Masters Award program, developed in partnership with SchoolDude.com, visit ASBO’s Website at www.asbointl.org/recognition or contact Pam Konde at 866/682-2729, ext. 7069 or pkonde@asbointl.org. Planning and designing new facilities may be the exciting part of our business, but learning to maintain them is the important part!