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Editor's Focus: Sending a Message

March 1, 2016
The condition of school facilities is vital to a successful educational experience.

The condition of school facilities is vital to a successful educational experience. Students, teachers, staff and visitors all are impacted by the buildings they occupy. What message are you sending with the condition of your school facilities? 

Much research has been done over the years on the impact of education facilities on learning, health, attendance, and more. A facility’s physical condition mirrors the value an institution and community places on education, and the importance— or lack thereof—it holds for its students, teachers and staff. 

While many education institutions across the country are scrambling to address poor and deficient facility conditions, some are facing a history of neglect and lack of investment for facilities maintenance and repair. Many of these buildings are not only uninspiring educational environments that have fallen into severe disrepair, but some also are potentially dangerous to occupants. 

Earlier this year, Duval County school district, Fla., announced it needed $1 billion to replace or repair existing buildings. Calling it a “capital crisis,” the superintendent expressed how district facilities are the oldest in Florida, with approximately 70 percent of them more than 50 years old. 

Magnifying the issue is what is happening in the Detroit Public School District. Citing the abysmal condition of many of the district’s schools, teachers staged a sick-out in January to protest the poor facility conditions they are forced to work in. While lawmakers and public figures agree that many schools are in terrible condition, little help is expected from the troubled city. 

But even when facilities improvements are attempted, sometimes the process results in its own set of problems as exhibited recently at a high school in Dallas. During renovations at South Oak Cliff High School, students threatened to walk out of classes in protest of what they considered to be substandard facility conditions. Because the renovations were being conducted while classes were in session, students said their education and health were at risk. 

Facility conditions do matter, and the state of your education environment sends a message to all of those that attend, work and visit your buildings. What message are you sending with the condition of your school facilities? 

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