Special Report
School Climate & Safety

School Facilities Form a Foundation for Learning

By The Editors — November 28, 2017 1 min read
Karin Bloss, a special education teacher at Discovery Elementary School, in Arlington, Va., catches up on work between periods. Discovery is known as a “green school,” with a design premium on energy efficiency and environmental factors.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Debate over the nation’s schools often focuses on the abstract and the academic: testing, standards, student achievement, and the teaching profession in all its challenges and complexities.

This Education Week special report is all about the more concrete—and equally crucial—topic of school facilities and what it takes to assure that the nation’s 56 million schoolchildren have a modern, fully-equipped, well-maintained school to attend, and a place where all that theory and educator experience can be put into practice.

School facilities are the literal foundation for the learning that takes place every day in some 13,000 school districts large and small. Building and maintaining them is a gargantuan financial lift—an estimated $49 billion per year for new schools and major capital projects nationwide, and $46 billion a year for maintenance and operations, according to a 2016 joint report by the 21st Century School Fund, the National Council on Facilities, and the Center for Green Schools.

The political and planning puzzles involved in getting the green light for that work and following it through to completion also put a heavy burden on local leaders, raising pointed questions about communities’ priorities and their long-term commitment to K-12 public education.

For this report, Education Week reporters examined the school facilities challenge through the lenses of planning and finance. They explore how communities prepare for and cope with the pressures of student enrollment growth and an aging portfolio of school buildings. They outline ways in which district leaders make their case for the investments amid budget uncertainties and an often-skeptical—and aging—taxpayer base. And they showcase innovative new school buildings and state-of-the-art retrofits tailored to the demands of a 21st century student body.

This package offers school leaders insights into the path forward as they seek to move beyond the frozen-in-amber model of monolithic buildings, long corridors, and walled off classrooms that still holds sway in the world of school facilities in many communities.

A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2017 edition of Education Week as The Foundation for Learning


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Working Smarter, Not Harder with Data
There is a new paradigm shift in K-12 education. Technology and data have leapt forward, advancing in ways that allow educators to better support students while also maximizing their most precious resource – time. The
Content provided by PowerSchool
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Deepen the Reach and Impact of Your Leadership
This webinar offers new and veteran leaders a unique opportunity to listen and interact with four of the most influential educational thinkers in North America. With their expert insights, you will learn the key elements
Content provided by Solution Tree
Science K-12 Essentials Forum Teaching Science Today: Challenges and Solutions
Join this event which will tackle handling controversy in the classroom, and making science education relevant for all students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Interactive School Shootings This Year: How Many and Where
Education Week is tracking K-12 school shootings in 2022. See the number of incidents and where they occurred in our map and data table.
2 min read
Sign indicating school zone.
School Climate & Safety Infographic School Shootings in 2021: 4 Takeaways, in Charts
In 2021, there were 34 school shootings that hurt or killed people, the most since 2018. Here's what we know about school shootings this year.
Illustration of a gun and a school in the background.
iStock/Getty collage
School Climate & Safety Opinion Assessing Shooting Threats Is a Matter of Life or Death. Why Aren't Experts Better at It?
To take the right actions before the next tragedy occurs, schools need all the help they can get, write three experts.
David Riedman, Jillian Peterson & James Densley
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of young person in crisis
School Climate & Safety Opinion How Can We Honor the Victims of School Shootings? Listen to Students
A mother who lost her child at Sandy Hook nine years ago writes that we must prioritize student voice to make schools safer.
Nicole Hockley
3 min read
After a rally in front of the White House, students march up Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington on March 14, 2018. Students walked out of school to protest gun violence in the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged in response to last month's massacre of 17 people at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
After a rally in front of the White House, students march in Washington on March 14, 2018, to protest gun violence.
Carolyn Kaster/AP