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Coronavirus Pandemic’s Impact on Schools Becomes Clearer


By Dan Hounsell Educational Facilities
school kids with teacher sitting in classroom

The coronavirus pandemic has changed almost everything, including the way institutional and commercial facilities operate. For the nation’s K-12 public schools, two recent reports reveal the depth of the challenges maintenance and engineering managers face as the reopening of their facilities approaches. 

The first insight comes from a new report from the Government Accountability Office on the condition of schools that students, teachers and staff will return to. More than one-half of the country's 13,000 school districts need to update or replace multiple building systems in their schools, according to the report – a challenge deepened by the financial crises now facing many public, taxpayer-funded organizations

Those facilities issues include, among other things, more than 40 percent of school districts that need to update or replace HVAC systems in at least one-half of their schools – an estimated 36,000 schools nationwide – that if left unaddressed could lead to indoor air quality problems and mold. In some cases, these problems already have caused schools to adjust their calendar years or shutter entirely, according to the report

When schools do reopen, who will be there to perform these needed upgrades and maintain schools? The second insight explores the impact of school districts’ financial struggles on staffing. 

“More K–12 public education jobs were lost in April than in all of the Great Recession,” writes Elise Gould, who analyzed the data for the Economic Policy Institute. Gould found that job losses were concentrated among building maintenance workers, janitors, utors, teaching assistants, counselors, special education teachers and nurses.

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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