Asumag 2469 Joe 2013 V2

Editor's Focus: Bad School Construction

Feb. 1, 2012
Many newly constructed and renovated school buildings in are poorly built and rife with various degrees of safety issues.

The process of building a new school is a challenging, yet rewarding, moment for the school population and community as a whole. Years of planning, collaboration, hard work, and plenty of money culminate in a facility that everyone can be proud of and that will serve the area for decades.

But imagine the feeling when the new building everyone was so proud of suddenly is deemed unsafe after the first year of use, and now sits empty and unfit to occupy. Then, you find out you are not alone and that numerous other newly constructed and renovated school buildings in the area also were poorly built and are rife with various degrees of safety issues. How could this happen? What went wrong with school construction?

This is the case at numerous schools in Colorado. To make it more disturbing, all were constructed by the same firm—the Neenan Co. To date, 15 recently constructed school buildings were identified as having structural issues of varying degrees of seriousness—one, Meeker Elementary School, which was completed in fall 2010, remains closed. It was discovered that the school had been designed with a building-code standard used for storage sheds and was at risk of collapse in severe weather.

Ironically, the majority of the affected schools received money through a grant program dedicated to making school buildings safer: Colorado’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program.

With all of the checks and balances that are part of the school construction process, you have to wonder how something so widespread and potentially catastrophic could happen. Somewhere the process broke down—repeatedly.

Hopefully, the affected schools will be repaired quickly and competently, and the agencies, officials, inspectors, and groups providing money for construction will be more diligent in future facilities projects. First and foremost, school facilities must be designed and constructed with safety being paramount—and all resources must be used to ensure that these buildings will be safe havens for children and occupants.

Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U.

About the Author

Joe Agron Blog | Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher

Joe Agron is the editor-in-chief/associate publisher of American School & University magazine. Joe has overseen AS&U's editorial direction for more than 30 years, and has helped influence and shape national school infrastructure issues. He has been sought out for comments by publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, ABC News and CNN, and assisted with the introduction of the Education Infrastructure Act of 1994.

Joe also authors a number of industry-exclusive reports. His "Facilities Impact on Learning" series of special reports won national acclaim and helped bring the poor condition of the nation's schools to the attention of many in the U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of Education and the White House.

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