School Business Affairs February 2021 SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | FEBRUARY 2021 19 ANCILLARY SERVICES Taking Responsibility for Improving School Facilities Guidance for creating an effective long-term K–12 facilities plan. By David Sturtz and Mary Filardo I n June 2020, just as the nation was in the grips of the first major surge in COVID-19 cases, the Govern- ment Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that underscores what district leaders, facility main- tenance workers, staff, and students have known for years: A great many of our nation’s school buildings are in poor condition. The report, K-12 Education: School Districts Fre- quently Identified Multiple Building Systems Needing Updates or Replacement , based on a fall 2019 national survey of school districts, revealed that about half of public school districts need to update or replace multiple building systems or features in their schools. In most states, school infrastructure spending depends on the wealth of local communities (exceptions are Hawaii, where all funding is from the state; Wyoming, with 67% from the state; and Delaware with 57% from the state). Because 82% of all capital expenditures for schools are borne by local communities, it is obvious why district facilities located in high property value com- munities are in better condition than those in poorer districts where funding is more difficult to obtain, according to 2016 State of Our Schools: American’s K-12 Facilities , issued by the 21st Century Fund, the National Council on School Facilities, and the Center for Cities + Schools. According to the report, state financial support for school district facilities varies significantly, from 0% to an average of 18%. The federal government contributes only 0.2% to the total capital spending on school facili- ties nationwide, with construction funds largely going toward rebuilding schools after natural disasters. COVID and Disparities The GAO report stated that schools in 40% of U.S. school districts are in need of major HVAC renovations or replacements—that’s 36,000 schools nationwide. That news is especially alarming during the pandemic when SMARTIN69/STOCK.ADOBE.COM