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Celebrating 70 Years of Education Facilities and Business Developments

Much has changed in education facilities and business over the past seven decades. The impact of technology alone has catapulted institutions into a new era, as schools and universities introduce new ways of teaching, more efficient methods of operating, and more sophisticated means of planning and constructing facilities to create the most effective learning environments.

However, as much as things have changed, a good many have remained the same. Administrators still must deal with increased demands, tight budgets, an overburdened physical plant and, believe it or not, a number of issues that are as much a concern today as they were 70 years ago.

Before you is a brief history of the education facilities and business market; how it has evolved over the past 70 years and American School & University's role as the information source. In addition, we take a look at what the new millennium may have in store for educational officials.

As we venture into a new era, emerging issues are sure to challenge even the most experienced administrators. You can be sure that AS&U will be there to continue providing the valuable information and insight you have come to expect.

How it all began The year was 1928, Herbert Hoover was just elected president and the nation reveled in the height of post-war prosperity. The year also marked another significant event--the birth of what is now the nation's oldest and most influential education facilities and business magazine: American School & University.

When AS&U rolled out its first edition in fall 1928--introduced as a hardcover annual dedicated to the planning, design, construction and operation of schools and universities--education construction was prospering. It was noted that about "$500 million [will] be spent on new educational buildings" that year. Although a significant amount for its day, the figure pales in comparison to the $10.5 billion spent on new construction in 1997.

The second volume of AS&U was published in 1929 a month or so before the stock-market crash. A quote from the issue states "education construction still is proceeding at a fast pace." Besides construction, among the key topics of concern covered in the 1928 and 1929 issues included: -School ventilation. The author states that it is "one of the most perplexing problems with which [districts] throughout the greater part of this country have to contend." -Fire Protection. The opening sentence sets the tone for this article: "Schools are in a class with jails, in that attendance in both is compulsory." The author then goes on to talk about fire protection in schools. -Modernization. Even in 1929, the need to modernize older school buildings was prevalent. The article described how many facilities have fallen into "almost unrestorable states of disrepair due to lack of appropriate maintenance." The author goes on to state, "A building should be abandoned at once when it is unsafe, or when the health and morals of the children are seriously threatened by its continued operation."

An eye-catching article titled "How a classroom should be equipped to show a motion picture" is a particular statement of the times. It was explained in some detail the importance of correct placement of the electrical outlet to plug in the projector.

1930s: A tumultuous time From the decade of the Great Depression and beginning of the second World War came an unparalleled program of public works under the leadership of FDR. Benefiting from this national focus was school construction, which continued to prosper early in the decade even after the stock-market crash of 1929. In addition to the federal initiative to relieve unemployment, much of the reason for the continued spending on schools was increased attendance and inadequacies of existing facilities.

The importance of efficiently managing available funds prompted a renewed focus by educational institutions on the "value of long-range planning, use of superior building materials that are cheaper in the long run, and the advantage of building when construction costs were lower than at any time during the previous decade." Public relations efforts on behalf of new building projects were explored in a number of issues, with the goal of "schools as community centers" expressed numerous times. Other articles in AS&U during the decade focused on: -Functional design of school buildings. -Acoustics in school. -Modern methods and materials of construction for school buildings. -What constitutes adequate classroom lighting. -Adequate school maintenance.

Of particular interest was the Foreword from the 1939 issue, which discussed how Congress was debating the adoption of a 10-year program of federal aid for school buildings. Almost 60 years later, Congress still is debating a national program of federal aid for school buildings.

1940s: A new beginning With World War II coming to an end, the nation embarked on a period of rebuilding during the decade. Education again was at the top of the list of federal initiatives with the introduction of such things as the National School Lunch Act and an Amendment to the Lanham Act of 1940 authorizing federal aid for construction, maintenance and operation of schools in federally impacted areas.

While federal aid for overall school construction and repair continued to be debated throughout the decade, AS&U filled a need by compiling its first construction report documenting the amount of new, addition and modernization projects completed in 1949 (published in 1950). That year, approximately $1.4 billion was spent by education institutions on construction: $1.03 billion by school districts and $352 million by colleges and universities.

An astonishing 61 percent of schools built new buildings in 1949. The median new elementary and secondary school cost $12 per square foot while a new college facility cost a median of $18 per square foot. A new elementary school in 1949 accommodated 450 students, while secondary schools were built to hold 1,200. While today's elementary schools are being built to hold more students (600), new secondary schools are accommodating fewer (750).

As federal aid for school construction was nonexistent, state aid for construction also lacked during the decade. In 1949, only 19 states provided some form of support for school construction, and in most of these states the amount of aid was meager. Today, 40 states provide ongoing financial assistance to local school districts for construction.

On the higher-education front, residence halls (dormitories in the 1940s) were the predominant form of college building constructed in 1949. The major push to provide housing facilities on college campuses caught the attention of the federal government, resulting in a Housing Act in 1950 authorizing loans for constructing college housing facilities.

Among the issues grabbing the attention of the nation's educational administrators during the decade, and featured in the pages of AS&U, include: -The difficulty schools faced keeping up with changing technology in the education environment was a dilemma even then. Articles discussed how "advances in technology and research have outmoded even the top plants of a few years ago." -Much attention was paid to how "the amount of space devoted to chalkboards continued to decrease in 1949 buildings. Experimentation with various chalkboard surfaces continued." What would administrators from the era say about technologies being used and introduced in today's school facilities?

1950s: Banking on the Boom Although the importance of planning was paramount, educational institutions were about to begin one of the most challenging periods in history as the official Baby-Boom decade was about to begin. School-age enrollment started its upward climb during the 1950s, and would not back up until almost two decades later. Experimentation with various facility designs and plans also proliferated, with such entries as: -The Finger Plan (1951). -Open-Plan Classrooms (1952). -The Self-Contained Classroom (1953). -Transportable Buildings (1954). -The Cluster Plan (1954). -The Campus Plan (1955). -The Little School Plan (a version of today's school-within-a-school) (1957).

-The Corridorless School (1959). -House-Plan Dormitories (1959).

Early in the decade, AS&U explored "Features of Outstanding Classrooms." Among the findings included "30 to 40 square feet per child is needed to conduct the required activities in a modern school" and the median classroom size "should be 825 square feet." Although the median classroom size is close to today's 900 to 1,000 square feet, the space per student cannot compare to the 110 square feet per student (new elementary school) to 153 square feet per student (new high school) currently provided.

1960s: Creating a lasting impression With the first half of the decade seeing the last of the Baby Boomers being born, the race was on to provide space for the influx of students. The motto for the time seemed to be "get schools up fast and cheap," resulting in a great number of buildings that were poorly planned, included inferior materials and workmanship, and had a short life span. The impact of these schools continues to plague us today.

As the nation scrambled to provide adequate classroom space, AS&U did its best to stay on top of emerging trends and issues, including: -What the electronic age can mean to education. -How the increasing use of portable buildings is gaining acceptance as a valid housing alternative for students. -Designs for flexibility and compatibility. -The feasibility of carpeting for school and college buildings. -Urban school decentralization and unique design concerns. -Planning residence halls for men and women "in the same complex." -The All-Electric School--meeting all energy needs of educational buildings through the use of electricity.

In fact, the education facilities and business market was evolving so fast that AS&U began publishing monthly in 1962 to meet growing demand for expert information. The pages of AS&U continued to attract the most critical thinkers in education and government, including such national leaders as Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon, as well as industry icons such as Ben Graves and Fred Hill.

Even in the 1960s, "a sharp increase in vandalism has caused school and college administrators to seriously consider the use of new security and detection systems to safeguard property." Although the author discusses such new technologies as "wire screens, fences and flood lights," not the sophisticated systems in use today, the need for improved security in schools was prevalent even almost 40 years ago.

An issue that AS&U pioneered, and continues to focus on today, is how the facility impacts learning. In 1969, a report examining the topic reviewed the effect of environmental influences such as room temperature, carpeting, acoustics, lighting, color and more. It also discussed the importance of a facility being able to adapt to various needs and changes. The author goes as far as saying, "A school facility that never changes gives a good indication that the program within is dead, or was never alive."

1970s: A market more complex A decade best remembered for the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the energy crisis and John Travolta's white suit, the 1970s served as a transition period for education.

School-age enrollment peaked in 1971, reaching 51.4 million students (only to be surpassed in 1996). However, every year that followed this milestone saw smaller numbers of school children enrolling in school, and by the late 1970s, districts throughout the country were closing some of their schools' doors. In addition, the business of education was becoming more complex and specialized. Among the issues focused on in AS&U during the decade included:

-Media center planning and design. -How to pass a school bond. -Accessibility issues and how to deal with Section 504. -Tightening up ID card systems. -Energy management.

The decade also saw a number of industry surveys sponsored by and published in AS&U, including the annual Official Education Construction Report (although actually started in 1949, it became an annual survey in 1975), annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study, School Business Official Survey, Director of Buildings and Grounds Survey, School and University Security surveys, and Purchasing Practices Survey.

1980s: An encapsulating time While school districts were forced to close schools early in the decade, the school-age population began a growth period in the mid-1980s that, for the most part, continues to climb even today. The nation also was entering a period of prosperity under President Ronald Reagan, but how that translated to spending on vital education facilities and business issues is unclear.

Although spending on operations and construction was plentiful during the last half of the decade, new mandates and program requirements siphoned away much of the dollars. The biggest impact was felt in the area of the dreaded "A" word--asbestos. The issue dominated administrative agendas for most of the decade, as well as the pages of AS&U.

Other business and facilities issues gaining prominence during the decade included technology and its impact on school administration and facilities, building automation, and long-term planning and design. The desire for more information on these and other facilities topics sparked the creation of the Architectural Portfolio in 1983. Produced in cooperation with the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education, the annual issue--published every November--remains the preeminent source for planning and construction concepts and ideas.

1990s: A decade in the works The decade began with a renewed focus on issues impacting education, as passage of the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act and Americans with Disabilities Act was made.

One of the more visible developments--and one that has been many years in the making--has been the attention focused on the deteriorating state of the nation's school facilities. From AS&U's 1992 series "Facilities Impact on Learning," to the release of the first of six reports from the U.S. General Accounting Office documenting the condition of America's schools, to current initiatives to provide federal aid for school construction, the issue of crumbling schools is expected to continue into the new millennium.

While the final chapter of the decade still is in progress, a number of issues will remain paramount for educational administrators responsible for the nation's school facilities and business operations--skyrocketing enrollment that is projected to continue climbing through 2006, an increased need to repair existing and build new facilities, and growing programmatic and social demands, to name a few. AS&U will do its best to keep you on top of these and other vital issues as we enter the next decade and beyond.

Looking to the future: Schools As we look forward and examine what school districts may expect in the next several decades, it is essential to remember that change does not happen overnight. There have been many trends and developments in the last 70 years, and there will be more in the next 70.

"I think that buildings are pretty much going to remain the same," says Don Tharpe, executive director, Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International. "They will be built with a little more flexibility in mind. Thirty or 50 years ago, nobody knew we would need all this power for technology; older schools just weren't equipped for it." The wiring necessary for distance learning and connecting to the outside world is a must in today's learning environment. "The walls are going to become more transparent," says Gary Marx, senior associate executive director, American Association of School Administrators (AASA). "Schools will become communication centers. From the school building, we will be communicating with learning resources all over the community, country and the world, and directly with the home. We will have to make more effective use of available technology."

Wiring is not the only thing that is changing within school facilities; the way teachers teach must meet the challenges ahead.

"With the growing amount of information, the knowledge and skills that people will have to master, there will be an even greater demand to convince the community and students that what we are teaching is important," says Marx. "People will be looking for real-world applications for what they learn."

Tharpe agrees, noting that schools are going to have to continually train teachers. "How can we say we are training kids for the 21st Century when we are not spending any money on upgrading skills of teachers? It is difficult for teachers teaching math or science for 20 years who have not been out of the classroom. It is hard to teach students computer skills when they [students] have more experience than the teachers."

Changing demographics While administrators are going to have to deal with technology, it is not the only changing force in education.

"Education is going to become more extended, far beyond neighborhood and political boundaries of the country," says Marx. "We are not only going to have to understand and appreciate and celebrate the diversity in our schools, community and city, but also we are going to have to learn to understand and appreciate the diversity that exists in the world."

ASBO's Tharpe agrees, stating that "with what is happening in the inner cities, schools are going to have to become more flexible in taking care of changing needs of students. We are going to have to take into consideration the way children learn is different. We have to come to terms with vouches and flexible scheduling, and allowing students that have dropped out to re-enter school. Those issues are going to be on the front burners and we have to determine how we are going to address them."

Learning styles leads to another issue, according to Tharpe. "There is a large amount of money being spent on special education. Parents are going to have to revisit this issue. It is not that schools will not try and accommodate students with special needs, but we have to determine to what extent. Are we willing to continue spending $150,000 to $200,000 to accommodate one student?

"I believe we need to relook at special schools. Parents don't like the idea that they have a special school, but as we increase the amount of money spent on special education, people are going to start questioning the value of it. It is becoming a dollars-and-cents issue of how do we accommodate these children and fit it into the budget."

Safety and building issues It often is easy for the public to see changing student demographics and the need for a wiring infrastructure to support technology needs. Yet, with each passing year, more communities are facing the realization that violence is "no longer a thing that happens only in inner cities, it happens in suburban areas, too," says Tharpe.

"We are going to see more security guards in schools," continues Tharpe. "Communities that typically prided themselves with the fact that they had nice schools are going to see more patrols in the area. Futuristically, we are going to see more joining of hands of school community and local community in terms of security. There is going to be a whole sense of community and caring."

While the basic building structure may remain the same, administrators are going to have many old issues to face in new ways. And, as in years past, how money is spent is going to be a major concern.

"With demographics changing and the population getting older, more people are not going to have children in schools. They are going to want their money spent on elderly care, nursing homes, community buses," says Tharpe. "With communities having to accommodate all of these aging people, there is going to be talk on how money is spent on education, making it increasingly difficult to get more money."

How schools address these concerns will make the big difference. "We are going to continue to find that we need to discover new ways to get parents involved with their schools," says Marx. "Parent involvement is very vital to education as a whole."

If something is not done to raise more money for schools and education is not put on the front burner, Tharpe believes that "the people are really going to have to look at reallocation of national resources and where best to put our money. Buildings are going to collapse and the federal government is going to be forced to do something."

Looking to the future: Colleges As with schools, colleges and universities are looking straight at the face of technology and its changing structure. With many facilities built decades ago, adding the necessary electrical and wiring needed can be a daunting task. And, with students wanting Internet access from anywhere and everywhere, colleges are struggling to comply.

"Technology is going to dramatically change the delivery of information," says Lander Medlin, executive director, APPA: The Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers. "Since information is the core of higher education, they [colleges and universities] are going to have to react."

Just exactly how universities react is yet to be seen and Medlin does not know the answer. "Students can get a lot of information off of the Internet. Will higher education want to deliver that information in the typical university with walls or a university without walls," she asks. "I think we will see a combination of those things. It is important that we are as educated as possible about the impact of technology and its delivery systems. It will become even more important that we get the systems in place to handle the information."

Gary Schwarzmueller, executive director, Association of College and University Housing Officers (ACUHO) International, agrees. "The wild card is what is all this web and Internet and interactive education going to mean to colleges," he says. "I don't see it changing the shape of education, but it is going to provide some opportunities that people can take advantage of to continue their education. It will appeal mostly to the non-traditional student, but most people will acknowledge that there is an extra benefit from an education on campus."

The delivery of this information is important to the facilities manager, notes Medlin. "Given all those driving forces behind technology, it does change the facility professional's role. Colleges are going to see change, they cannot pretend like change isn't going to happen."

One way she sees technology changing education is making it more individualized. "Faculty members cannot deliver the same information in the same way to a student who has access to the Internet," says Medlin. "There is mass access and mass providing of information. It is changing universities back to much more individualized teaching. In the future, it is going to create more specializations and those specializations will be more individual-based."

Increasing numbers Enrollments are causing changes, too, and will continue to affect colleges and universities.

"We are going to see enrollments expanding at different rates," says Schwarzmueller. "The sunbelt areas-Florida, California, Texas-are going to have explosive growth in higher education; other areas may not expand at all."

What this means is that colleges and universities are going to have to respond to this rapid growth with new buildings or renovations, and areas with little growth are going to compete a little harder to attract new students.

"The standard of living has gone up. Students nowadays have experienced more things and have a lot more things than years ago. That is going to continue to be the case," says Schwarzmueller. "They expect those services in the residence halls."

He points out that with each year that goes by, the housing currently available on campuses is another year older. "There is a lot of housing stock out there that needs renovation badly. Roofs leak, you have to deal with that immediately. But, to stay in business, colleges must begin addressing substance and infrastructure issues."

During the past 20 years, students have been shying away from residence halls with gang bathrooms/showers and double-loaded corridors. That trend is going to continue as more students request single rooms or apartment-style suites. "It is expensive to have a lot of single rooms," says Schwarzmueller. "Colleges have to look at how appealing the housing is and what they can do to make it more appealing."

Environmentally friendly Students entering college today are more environmentally aware than 20, 50 or even 100 years ago. The community is demanding that businesses do what is best for the world; and universities are feeling the same pressures.

"We have to preserve our natural resources. I think that is going to be a major issue," says Medlin. "Higher education may be able to change the pattern of the past. Communities are wanting higher education facilities to pay a great deal of attention to impacts on the environment. Energy conservation plays a part in that.

"There are many critical issues facing colleges today. For us, we are focusing in on what we believe are the major critical factors-information/technology; resource scarcity; societal needs-public accountability and performance accountability; role of the government; and environmental deterioration. It is not about looking at our past to determine future success anymore. We can't think like that."

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