The United States is full of schools built in the 1950s and 60s that supported the boomer school-age enrollment increase. These schools, once beacons of the neighborhood, are 50 to 60 years old and susceptible to becoming the community "eyesore." Budgeting for maintenance was fairly systematic for school districts for the first 10 to 20 years after opening those buildings. The schools were relatively low-maintenance, and the annual operations and repair budgets kept ahead of maintenance requirements.
The first round of systems and products replacement for those schools was in the mid-80s, and it now is time for a second or third round of upgrades for those buildings. Many districts added new schools in the late 80s and early 90s because of another round of enrollment growth; these schools are due for major upgrades.
Today, with budget cuts and funding restrictions, school district budgets cannot cover compounded major maintenance work required to extend the useful life of the 1950s/60s schools, let alone the schools built in the 1980s and 90s.
It’s a national problem; cost estimates for repairing and modernizing schools nationwide continue to grow. The General Accounting Office estimated a $112 billion backlog in 1995; in 1999 the National Center for Education Statistics put the figure at $127 billion; in 2000, the National Education Association estimated it would take $268 billion to carry out all the needed school repairs.
Schools and universities made some inroads in addressing the problem during the last decade, but the economic setbacks in recent years have caused many education institutions to defer projects.
The costs for operations and maintenance of a building involve a substantial expenditure of public funds. The investment for original construction represents only about one-eighth of the cost of operating a school (including overhead costs and facility maintenance and operation costs) over a 30-year life of the building. Operating costs for utilities, energy usage and services are essential and must compete with educatonal programs for funds.
Properly designed and constructed school buildings provide substantial savings in operations, maintenance, and long-term repair and retrofit costs over time.