It's a scenario that could take place in any district: A facilities planner wants to pay to have a new school "commissioned," but the district's accountant believes the additional cost—about 1 percent of the total expense of the project—could be better spent on other needs. Who's right?
According to a soon-to-be-released school guidebook, "commissioning"—which means having a third party verify that all components of a new or remodeled school are in place, will meet the district's needs, and operate as designed— is a practice nearly all districts could benefit from when undertaking major construction projects.
In one case documented in the guidebook a local contractor hired as such a commissioner found that $3,000 of equipment already bought and paid for had never been installed, and that the school's heating and cooling system was not operating as efficiently as it should.
Commissioning is just one of the topics addressed in the new "Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities."
The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities will release the guide in a joint project with the Association of School Business Officials International, known as ASBO. The facilities clearinghouse, which is financed by the U.S. Department of Education, is based in Washington.
Even though school district officials know that high-quality construction and preventive maintenance are key to the longevity of school buildings, they don't always know what needs to be done, and when. With that in mind, the authors of the new guide designed the publication to help districts plan for facilities maintenance and routine repairs—actions that the facilities clearinghouse and ASBO stress could save a lot of money down the road.
Among other topics, the guide discusses creating long-term facilities plans, auditing facilities, and managing data, safety issues, and maintenance. It also includes a list of Web resources and checklists.
The guide is scheduled to be available free online early this month at the clearinghouse's Web site, www.edfacilities.org. Later in February, printed copies will be sent to every ASBO member, ASBO state chapters, state departments of education, and groups of school facilities planners that review publications.
—Joetta L. Sack
Vol. 22, Issue 21, Page 10