Recommendations From Governors’ Task Forces on Education: School Facilities: Buildings Are Underused and Poorly Maintained

September 10, 1986 1 min read

What Are Schools for?

The most startling thing that we found is that our nation’s public school buildings represent a quarter- trillion-dollar investment, yet these facilities are often underused and poorly maintained ....

Most education reform seeks to change what happens inside school buildings, not how those buildings are used. But we found the overwhelming majority of America’s schools are used only five days a week, nine months a year, and are restricted to the formal education of people between the ages of 5 and 18. This makes no sense to us ....

We now have proof that many students learn more when they do not have three-month vacations, and that a year-round school calendar can be less expensive for districts with growing enrollments than putting up new buildings ....

We can make sure our laws and bureaucracies do not stand in the way of districts using their facilities to respond to the broader needs of their own communities while at the same time helping themselves ....

Buildings do not bargain collectively and they have paid the price. During the last decade, millions of dollars for capital repair were shifted to other expenses, including staff salaries, energy, pollution control, and asbestos removal. A 1983 estimate put the cost of catching up on repairs and maintenance of school buildings at $25 billion. We need to work with our districts and communities to protect our investment. It’s just good business sense ....

Ted Schwinden

Governor of Montana

Task force chairman


1. States should focus existing “community- education” initiatives on the shared use of facilities. Particular attention should be given to community groups providing day-care and latchkey services.

2. States should encourage school district to make more efficient use of school buildings, including the adoption of year-round school calendars. 3. States should act to restore school buildings in which maintenance needs or safety improvements have been deferred.

4. States should establish policies regarding the disposition of obsolete and excess buildings, based upon long-term goals and demographics, as well as the needs of adjacent districts for building space.

5. To provide continuing, in-depth information and technical assistance, states should encourage established educational organizations to develop greater expertise in this field.

A version of this article appeared in the September 10, 1986 edition of Education Week as Recommendations From Governors’ Task Forces on Education: School Facilities: Buildings Are Underused and Poorly Maintained