The past year has been extremely tumultuous for students, parents, teachers, and facilities staff in K-12 school districts. From online learning to new space layouts to support social distancing, flexibility and adaptation has been a necessity. Standing here today, you should wear those traits like a badge of honor! (actual badges sold separately)
But look ahead. Can you see it? The light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel is rapidly approaching as vaccines begin to be rolled out nationwide. As you continue to deal with COVID-19 policies and procedures, many parents, students, and teachers are already looking ahead to what comes next. Is your K-12 facility management team ready?
To keep you one step ahead, we are diving into a few of the most important trends for K-12 schools facilities management post-COVID-19.
Even After the Return to School, COVID-19 Protocols Are Here to Stay
As we celebrate COVID-19 vaccine rollouts across the country and students begin to return to school, it is important to keep things in perspective. Although teachers and high-risk individuals are a priority there still is no timeline for getting children vaccinated, who can still spread the disease to adults.
Processes and protocols you've put in place to combat COVID-19 such as more frequent cleaning and disinfection rounds, redesigned classrooms and school spaces, and more frequent filter changes are most likely here to stay. While we will eventually conquer COVID-19, the pandemic has put a renewed emphasis on ensuring that K-12 facilities and spaces are clean and safe to use.
Outside of the tactical processes and procedures, what parents, staff, and the community as a whole are asking for is greater transparency into what you and your team are doing. Facility management has long been an industry working in the shadows, adept at keeping facilities safe, clean, and operational without interrupting daily activities. The biggest long-term impact of COVID-19 will be the demand for more insight into what your team does on a daily basis, reassuring everyone that facilities are cleaned, safe, and healthy.
School Safety Returns To Top Of Mind
Before there was COVID-19 and return to school plans dominating the news, school safety was the K-12 school topic on everyone's mind. With protocols, procedures, and back to school plans in place for many districts, now is the time for you to revisit your emergency plans.
A major part of these emergency plans should be egress plans for all of your buildings. These plans help provide landmarks and routes for students and staff to take in different emergencies. Building an egress plan is the first step, but keeping your schools safe and secure doesn't end there.
- Egress plans need to be shared and accessible for staff and first responders.
- Staff need to be trained on what to do in case of emergency.
- Parents need to be reassured of all of the above.
Building egress plans can easily fall through the cracks as you juggle your hundred other facility management responsibilities. But it's one you should add to your high-priority list as schools start opening up and students begin to return to the classroom. Creating these egress plans can be easily done with the right technology in place.
K-12 Schools Shifting Towards a Business Mind
Open enrollment. Limited state education budgets. Changing demographics. All of these have been driving K-12 school districts to take more of a business approach to the way they operate and manage their facilities.
This change is being accelerated due to budget deficits most state and local governments have been burdened with in dealing with COVID-19. To keep enrollment numbers up and stay competitive, K-12 school districts need to not just exist but work to impress students and parents in the surrounding communities.
In addition to the obvious factors parents consider such as teachers and test scores, your facilities also play a major role. If a prospective parent were to walk into your newest school, what would their first impression be? Now what if they toured your oldest?
Keeping facilities in tip-top shape doesn't just ensure safe and secure learning environments. It is also a selling tool to bring in more students and the state dollars that go with that. Having the right software in place can help you streamline maintenance, be more responsive to teacher and staff requests, and ultimately keep your K-12 schools in better condition. set
Deferred Maintenance Takes Center Stage
You've been dealing with deferred maintenance probably since the day your buildings were opened. It's a way of life for school facility teams, one that has never been noticed or of particular concern to the community as long as schools stayed safe and healthy.
COVID-19 has taken a sledgehammer to this one-way mirror, as parents and school administrators have become keenly aware of the condition of their schools. Budget cuts over the last...infinity...years has forced K-12 facility management teams to defer more and more maintenance.
This deferred maintenance can have severe consequences for K-12 schools, such as:
- Uncomfortable learning environments
- Increased safety risk
- Lost instructional time
- Poor technology experience
- Higher maintenance costs
K-12 facilities management teams never have the money they need to do everything, so there is a healthy level of deferred maintenance for schools to carry. But if you are like most K-12 facilities management teams, you are dealing with a deferred maintenance list that far exceeds what could be considered "healthy'.
While there is no magic formula for erasing years of deferred maintenance, with proper planning and the right data you can start to chip away at it. The first step to taking control of your deferred maintenance is having a single list of all deferred maintenance tasks you currently have. Once you have an idea of what you are dealing with, start building these deferred maintenance projects into future budgets.
Want to see more trends happening in K-12 facility management? Download our free 2021 Technology Trends in Facility Management Report and dive into what technologies are set to make your job a whole heck of a lot easier.