Preserving Our School Facility Investments

maintenance planning


Typically, the marching orders for facility/maintenance departments are spelled out in some form of a long-range strategic action plan. These plans vary in terms of format and time frames, but the process generally includes, but is not limited to, data review, needs assessment, goal setting, objectives to measure progress, action step formation, stakeholder committee/review, review by the local school board, implementation and follow-up reporting. These long-range plans serve as a blueprint to keep facility/maintenance department staffs on track in the hectic world of facility management.

A major priority area of many long-range strategic action plans for facility/maintenance departments is the maintenance and upkeep of all district facilities. This is an area that facility/maintenance departments across the nation regard as a source of pride. We have all heard the old adage it is easy to construct a building, the hard work is in maintaining/preserving it. Too often, school districts across the nation utilize non-recurring funding sources, such as bond issue referendums, to fund major construction projects without establishing a plan for long-term maintenance or a plan to fund said maintenance.


There are specific planning tools utilized by the St. Charles Parish (La.) Public Schools’ Departments of Physical Plant Services and Maintenance that illustrate how school districts can ensure that the objectives associated with this priority are achieved. The two planning tools that I will be highlighting are the Long-Range Major Maintenance/Capital Improvements Five Year Outlay Plan (LRMM/CIP) and the Major Building Component Obsolescence Plan (MBCOP).


Before a description and analysis of these two plans are outlined, it is appropriate to provide information that will give a perspective on the environment in which these plans operate. The St. Charles Parish Public School system is located in St. Charles Parish, La., which is a suburban parish located 20 miles west of New Orleans and 60 miles south of Baton Rouge. The parish is divided by the Mississippi River with about half of the 52,000 residents located in each area. Because of the river, the parish has a strong petro-chemical and maritime industry presence.

The school system is fortunate to have a community that is very supportive of public education. In addition, business and industry support the school system in a myriad of ways. Approximately 93 percent of the school-aged children in the parish attend public schools, which is somewhat of a rarity for the metro New Orleans region of the state of Louisiana.

The St. Charles Parish Public School System demographic information is as follows: 15 schools, six centers, and eight administrative buildings; a building square footage of 2,161,880; 1,811 employees; 9,819 students; and a per-pupil expenditure of $14,476. The annual budget for the Departments of Physical Plant Services and Maintenance averages $35,915,329 per fiscal year (FYs 2014, 2015, and 2016 were used to compute this average). The school system is an “A” rated school system by the Louisiana Department of Education.


Now that the environment in which these plans operate under has been identified, a description and analysis of the LRMM/CIP and the MBCOP will follow.

The former plan, LRMM/CIP, is a database of all schools/facilities within the school district that illustrates the identified major maintenance and capital improvements projects for schools/facilities. For each school/facility, the project name, area/location, year budgeted and estimated costs are listed. The plan is based on a five-fiscal-year cycle with the current fiscal year being the first point on the continuum. The plan allows for any necessary flexibility as continuous change exists in facility planning. The identified projects on this list will have some movement along this continuum based on several factors, which will be discussed and outlined later in this article.

The latter plan, MBCOP, is a database of all major systems within buildings at all facilities in the district. Major systems in the database include roofing, flooring, HVAC, energy management and lighting. While there are many more building components/systems that can be tracked, these are the ones considered by the district in an effort to not get lost in the minutia of the available data. (Each district should tailor their plans to include building components/systems that they deem as critical data points.)

For each item, a construction/installation date is entered and a life-cycle-based replacement date is entered. For many years, all of the data was entered manually into a spreadsheet created by district staff. Life-cycle-based replacement dates were gleaned from warranty information, manufacturer life cycle projections and past performance data. In addition, replacement costs were attained from means, manufacturer/vendor quotes and previous project data costs (which must be adjusted for inflation and market conditions). Understandably, this was a laborious task that occupied a large amount of time and human capital.

Currently, facility managers have additional tools at their disposal to make endeavors like these more manageable and run more efficiently. Various education enterprise asset management vendors now provide forecasting instruments that can do much of this work for facility departments. One example of this type of forecasting program is the School Dude Capital Forecast Direct module.

The forecasting programs available through various vendors typically have built in formulas to determine life-cycle-based replacement dates and to determine major component replacement costs. The administrative staff in the St. Charles Parish Public School System’s Departments of Physical Plant Services and Maintenance is beginning the process to research and select a facility component-forecasting program that will meet the needs of the departments. Most forecasting programs allow for migration of previously compiled data that may have already been created in a format such as Microsoft Excel. This will allow for the conversion process to be less laborious and more efficient.

A yearly analysis of the MBCOP database helps identify major system projects that need to be planned for as part of the LRMM/CIP (see accompanying tables for an excerpt of the two plans and an example of the analysis leading to action). Table 1.1, below, is an excerpt from the MBCOP that illustrates an example of major system information entered for a school site within the district. Highlighted in yellow is the HVAC system information for Buildings B and C at Albert Cammon Middle School. Notice the lifecycle expectancy for the system was projected to expire in 2015.

Table 1.2, below, is an excerpt from the LRMM/CIP that illustrates an example of scheduled major maintenance/capital improvements for the same school showcased in table 1.1. Highlighted in yellow is the correlating budgeted HVAC replacement for Buildings B and C at Albert Cammon Middle. These two tables serve as an example of how the plans are coordinated.

However, in the world of facilities, it’s not always as simple as it appears. The only constant that can be counted on is that there will always be movement and change. There are many other factors that must be considered, such as available funds, emergency projects, other critical need projects, work order data, warranty issues, et cetera, et cetera.

While it is important to realize that this type of planning cannot be conducted in a vacuum, creating and utilizing forecasting tools and replacement plans enable school districts to be in a more advantageous position regarding the preservation of facilities. Having plans such as building component obsolescence plans and long-range major maintenance plans will facilitate the protection of the investment our districts and communities have made in the facilities that house our most precious commodity — students.

Table 1.1 St. Charles Parish Public Schools Building Maintenance Obsolescence Planning Chart
Albert Common Middle School
  Yr/Built Sq/Ft Asbestos Rep/ Budgeted Yr HVAC Roof Lighting Flooring EMS
Building - A 1973 36000 X Yr/Replaced 2003 2006 1973 1973 X
        Yr/Budgeted 2023 2026 2015 2003  
Building - B 1993 14727   Yr/Replaced 1993 1993 1993 1993 X
        Yr/Budgeted 2015 2043 2015 2023  
Building - C 1993 9871   Yr/Replaced 1993 1993 1993 1993 X
        Yr/Budgeted 2015 2043 2015 2023  
Comments: Building A flooring abated as part of 2003 flooring replacement.


School Project Name FY 2014-15 FY 2015-16 FY 2016-17 FY 2017-18 FY 2018-19
Allemands Elem. Main building and cafeteria roof (Complete)          
Allemands Elem. Site drainage       $140,000  
Allemands Elem. Intercom (Complete) $40,000        
Allemands Elem. Building B Center classroom enclosures NFS $72,500 $72,500    
Cammon Middle B/C Building HVAC          
Cammon Middle Parking lot addition (Complete)          
Cammon Middle Parking lot milling, asphalt, and striping (Complete)          
Cammon Middle Cooler/freezer $75,000        
Cammon Middle Lighting fixture replacement $120,000        

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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