Incorporating Educational Adequacy in School Building Facility Assessments

Through the state’s comprehensive K-12 school construction program, Ohio has built more than 760 new or renovated schools during the past 12 years. Each of these buildings is part of an extensive school district-wide master planning process that includes a detailed assessment of the existing school facilities. For the Ohio School Facilities Commission, looking at the educational adequacy of the buildings has proven to be a valuable tool in determining the scope and budget for state assisted projects.

The process starts when the school district staff provides basic information about their existing school facilities. An assessment team then meets with school administrators, including the superintendent, treasurer, business manager and facilities manager or maintenance supervisor. The purpose of the meeting is to familiarize the district with the procedure for building evaluation and data collection as well as to garner input from district representatives regarding special concerns. Topics that typically come up during these meetings include:
  • special knowledge or concerns about the physical condition of any of the existing facilities,
  • hazardous material abatement management plans,
  • unusual ownership arrangements pertaining to any existing facilities,
  • special desires for retaining any existing facilities and
  • historically significant facilities.
The assessment meeting is followed by the team’s on-site data collection, using the Ohio School Facilities Commission’s standard assessment instrument. Each assessment evaluates the condition of 23 different building systems and components. The condition of every space (occupied or unoccupied), roof, system and component is observed and rated, to the extent allowable without destructive or invasive testing. The appraisal includes green school attributes since schools in districts that were approved for state funding after September 2007 are being designed to meet at least U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Schools Silver Certification, with a goal of meeting the LEED Gold level.

The assessors also make field notes of noteworthy conditions. These notes may include a school district map showing the location of each school, typical room illumination levels, CADD building floor plans, digital photographs and readily evident conditions such as site topography, on-site obstructions and adjacent land uses that might significantly effect master planning.

As the team is looking at the physical condition of the building, it is also creating a profile of the educational condition. Ohio has incorporated the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) school facilities appraisal guidelines into the appraisal process. The team is charged with observing 97 data points that address educational needs. This part of the appraisal focuses on academic areas, playgrounds, student loading areas and support space, including teacher’s work and lounge areas, kitchens, reception areas, clinics, counselor offices and administrative offices.

The focus on educational adequacy is especially important with the recent passage of the Ohio Education Reform Bill. While the scope of the bill’s impact on Ohio’s educational system is extensive, there are particular areas that have an impact on facility requirements. Our next revision of the assessment tool will include additional items specifically related to the new requirements.

Melanie Drerup, REFP, LEED-AP, is the deputy chief of Planning for the Ohio School Facilities Commission and an active member of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI). She may be reached at [email protected]