By Bob Nicholson, EH&A Vice President
School facilities have an extreme impact on both teacher and student outcomes. Facilities affect teacher recruitment, retention, commitment, and effort and, with respect to students, school facilities affect health, behavior, engagement, learning, and growth in achievement. Researchers agree that without adequate facilities and resources, it is extremely difficult to serve large numbers of children with complex needs.
Improving the quality of school facilities is an expensive job. However, when the positive impacts of facility improvement on teachers and students are translated into dollar figures, the rewards of such investments far outstrip the cost of the investments.
A Facilities Assessment Report should be viewed as a planning tool and framework around which the district will develop its Master Plan for maintaining and upgrading its educational facilities and grounds. The report format is such that it will allow a district and community to review an entire body of work and assign priority rankings to the various work items, as the need is perceived. The listing is then easily transformed into a construction program statement that becomes the basis for a long-range action plan.
However, a Facilities Assessment does not address changes to the buildings a district might make to change the way education is delivered. Creating a realistic educational specification is an important and necessary step in Long-Range Facilities Master Planning. Educational Specifications link to the design of school facilities based on a fundamental principle of modern architecture: form follows function. Educationally effective facilities must correspond to and support the curriculum function they are designed to house.
A Facilities Assessment Report is:
- a snapshot of current conditions
- a benchmark of your current facilities
- what needs to be done to maintain their current use
- how much it will cost to maintain them in useful condition
The facility information presented in a report can be obtained through a review of available building drawings and specifications, as well as by on-site inspections of the buildings by a team of facility experts. Inspections may consist of interviews with principals and appropriate staff and a walk-through of the building and grounds.
A Snapshot in Time
Considerations presented in the report reflect conditions observed during the inspection processes and represents a snapshot of the facilities as they existed during the evaluation. The findings of the report are a benchmark of the existing facility conditions as compared against current code requirements, opportunities for energy savings, and of building materials that have exceeded their expected life cycle.
Once needs have been fully analyzed, the planning team will be able to prioritize the items identified. The final listing of priorities will be based solely on the needs and priorities of the district and community.
A Facilities Assessment Report is at the front line in the development of master plans and is a key process for best practice in the master plan’s initial steps along with the educational specifications. This process is key to the process of planning a bond campaign, procuring funds, or setting a baseline for future development and growth.