Of 1,000 consumers polled in a recently released study from software-as-a-service provider Dude Solutions, 65% think schools have the necessary resources to manage students and 55% think schools are now better equipped to handle another education disruption in the future.
However, the data also reveals only 36% of respondents feel schools have improved over the last five years, and only 37% think they are safer. Technology is cited as the top priority to improve local schools (35%), followed by more staff (31%), better safety measures (18%) and building improvements (16%).
The pandemic has pushed concerns about ventilation and air filtration to the top of the list, with 48% saying they are concerned and 63% suggesting they would be willing to pay more taxes for improved school ventilation systems.
The survey respondents aren’t alone in their concerns over school building infrastructure. In its 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the country’s school infrastructure at "D-," pointing to a 2020 report from the Government Accountability Office that found 53% of U.S. schools need to upgrade or replace multiple building systems — including HVAC.
The GAO also found 41% of schools had issues with HVAC systems, and 16% have not evaluated their systems within the last 10 years. The ASCE report blames the problem on lack of long-term facility planning.
Dilapidated schools have long been an issue. In 2011, a U.S. Department of Education survey found an estimated 14 million students went to schools in need of repairs. At that time, two-thirds of the schools had infrastructure issues such as inadequate ventilation and old heating and cooling systems. They also had nonfunctioning toilets, poor lighting and peeling paint.
Air quality plays a role in students’ ability to concentrate, and contaminants like lead, asbestos, radon and formaldehyde disproportionately impact younger students. School building quality has also long played a role in teacher morale. A 1988 study from the Institution for Educational Leadership, "Working in Urban Schools," found environmental factors impacted teachers’ feelings of effectiveness and can lead to higher levels of absenteeism, lower classroom effectiveness and reduced job satisfaction.
While the Bipartisn Infrastructure Framework proposal won’t give a significant boost to schools' capital improvement projects, a White House fact sheet states funds would be available for districts to replace lead pipes in schools and invest in electric school buses. It also proposes using $65 billion to expand high-speed broadband availability to all Americans, helping to further close the homework gap.