With the passing of The American Rescue Plan in March 2021, school leaders across the country are now anticipating another round of federal relief funding. This bill provides even more widespread economic aid for education, including $122.8 billion specifically earmarked for K-12 districts.
Many district leaders are desperately in need of these additional dollars to keep their facilities, staff, educational quality and community programs afloat. However, there remain questions about how best to apply these funds to make a concrete impact—and see the biggest returns.
Use infrastructure projects to protect health
The recent Federal Relief Acts specifically call out "repairing school facilities, especially ventilation systems, to improve air quality and reduce spread of COVID-19" as a potential use for the stimulus funds. Outdated HVAC systems are among the top environmental factors that affect the health of a facility and their occupants, but there are others to consider as well.
Deferred maintenance backlogs can cost millions in wasted energy and wasted time. Many school leaders may not realize there is also a direct link between tackling deferred maintenance and improving the indoor environment.
Now, thanks to the federal relief funds, many school districts who were previously saddled with years of unfunded projects can finally move forward with infrastructure modernization.
Build a long-lasting impact
Stimulus funding should not be viewed as a stop gap, but as a long-term financial investment that allows school districts to address multiple needs and prepare for the future. Many districts will choose to allocate funds to lay the groundwork for future modernization and infrastructure improvements.
An ideal first step is a comprehensive inventory of all capital assets. This will allow for a proactive approach to maintenance and lifecycle planning, which will help school leaders make the most of school facilities and focus on the biggest goals.
Simply put, it begins with understanding what you have today, so you can plan for tomorrow.
Create an intelligent master plan with Capital Asset Planning
With a large portfolio of assets to manage—typically multiple facilities with a mis-matched mix of systems, equipment and needs—and mounting deferred maintenance backlogs to contend with, school leaders and facility managers often get stuck in a reactive repair and replacement schedule. In this volatile state, proactive planning is pushed aside as immediate needs demand all the attention.
Now is the time to break out of this all-too-familiar spiral. Instead, create a comprehensive master plan for infrastructure management and improvement. With a wide view of every piece of equipment including full lifecycle costs, maintenance needs and expected lifespan—schools will be fully prepared to prioritize investments and create stability in annual budgets for years to come. This is Capital Asset Planning (CAP).
Capital Asset Planning is a comprehensive planning, budgeting and maintenance program that layers in expert advice to help organizations better understand how to best operate, maintain, and eventually replace integral infrastructure components.
With predictive analytics tied to budgetary allocations—the ability to see which assets will need maintenance or are close to reaching end-of-lifecycle—CAP brings new insights that switches asset management from reactive to proactive, potentially decades in advance.
CAP gives leaders new ways to:
- Improve master planning and budgeting: Capture every asset and prioritize maintenance and replacement needs over time. This ability streamlines the master planning process and improves budgeting accuracy.
- Ensure reliable and resilient facilities: Minimize costly and unexpected breakdowns of critical systems with proactive maintenance plans. Plus, the comprehensive inventory provides a better understanding of the operational readiness of all capital assets.
- Optimize maintenance schedules and staff: Proactive projects boost the long-term performance of buildings’ systems. With buildings performing better, facility staff have more bandwidth for more hands-on site work.
Energy Performance Contracting stretches stimulus dollars further
Federal aid can be the first step in a master plan that builds towards a modern, healthy and safe learning environment. To maximize short-term funding while creating long-term successes, many districts will use this mandate in combination with an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) to stretch their dollars further.
ESPCs allow school districts to not only address foundational infrastructure issues, such as wiping out deferred maintenance backlogs, but also reinvest savings to fund far-reaching goals, such as healthier buildings, sustainable athletic fields or upgraded STEM labs. An ESPC partnership team also includes financial experts to help find, apply, and implement other federal- and state-level grant opportunities as they become available.