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K-12 Workflow Management Blog

How to Conduct a School Facilities Assessment and Analyze the Results

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Usually, it’s students and teachers who are most concerned about assessments. But when a master planning or school district facility planning process involves a school facility condition assessment, school and district leaders might find themselves feeling the pressure. 

Whether reviewing private or public school facilities, it’s hard to overstate the importance of these audits. The National Center for Education Statistics said it best in their Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities

“Facilities problems affect teaching and learning, student and staff health, day-to-day building operations, and the long-range fiscal health of the entire education organization.”

If you’ve never completed a facility audit, your first one can be intimidating. Our quick guide can help you understand what to expect during these critical assessments.

What is a School Facilities Assessment?

A school facilities assessment is a comprehensive, honest evaluation of a school building’s physical structure and systems to determine if they are suitable and safe for the needs of students and staff. The building may be an elementary, middle, or high school – or another district-owned facility.

Facility assessments include these phases:

  1. Inspecting each school building and building system to assess their condition.
  2. Scoring each building and system element and comparing the score to the desired facility condition index using facilities management software.
  3. Working with outside consultants and partners to outline facility management goals and objectives.
  4. Deciding on the post-assessment steps, such as addressing overall facility needs, maintenance issues, upgrades, and capital planning for big-ticket items.

Why You Need School Facility Condition Assessments

The fundamental goal of a school building assessment is to receive valuable insights about the condition of the building(s) in question. Remember, it’s not just about identifying what needs a fresh coat of paint. Professionals with expertise in architecture, engineering, and educational facility planning typically conduct these comprehensive assessments.

Expect them to drill down into the intricate details of the building’s condition, from the foundation to the rooftop, to help you identify and budget for critical near-term repairs and longer-term construction projects with outside providers. Making the right decisions about what to prioritize and knowing how you’ll prepare for a significant repair or replacement cost directly affects your students’ learning environment.

Managing the School Facility Assessment Process

The school facility assessment process starts with pre-planning efforts, laying the groundwork for the actual facility inspections. Once the audit is complete, stakeholders analyze the results to inform and update action plans.

Assessment Pre-Planning

Properly planning your facility assessment will take more than a few emails. To ensure a successful, comprehensive audit, expect to spend significant time coordinating with outside vendors and internal stakeholders to align on the following:

  • Timing: To avoid assessment disruptions and maximize evaluators’ time with the building, schedule inspections for dates when students and non-essential staff are absent.
  • Staffing Needs: Ensure any staff critical to a successful inspection are available. For example, you will likely need to have your lead facilities manager present to address any questions about the building’s systems.
  • Scope of the Assessment: Prepare and confirm the master list of the minimum audit requirements for each facility and building system parameters.
  • Documentation: Identify, request, and gather all documents needed to complete the assessment, such as maintenance records, safety certifications, and incident reports.

Facility Inspections

Use the audit requirements you established during your pre-planning to create thorough checklists, including your buildings’ systems and their components. Annotate checklists with information on items that fail to meet minimum standards or requirements for their inspection.

No two school facility assessments are identical. However, common systems to consider for your checklists include:

  • Fire Safety Systems and Fire Hazards: Are all fire extinguishers properly charged and in place? Identify non-working smoke detectors, alarm systems, and sprinkler systems. Flag overstuffed storage rooms for purging, especially if they contain flammable materials.
  • Air Quality:  Is there any evidence of asbestos, mold, carbon monoxide, or other dangerous air quality issues in the building?
  • Energy Efficiency: It may be more cost-effective to replace older HVAC systems instead of repairing them. Consider commercial systems with high efficiency ratings, which can save energy and reduce costs. Identify poorly insulated areas and drafty windows and doors, which can also be a significant source of energy waste.
  • Building Structure: Cracks in concrete and support beams may indicate severe problems, including a risk of collapse. Confirm whether foundation cracks are from settling or something that needs to be addressed, especially in areas prone to earthquakes. Water damage caused by leaky roofs can harm ceilings, walls, and flooring.
  • Plumbing: Older school buildings are prone to plumbing problems, such as leaky faucets wasting water, blocked drains causing sewage backup, and broken pipes causing water damage.
  • Electrical Systems: Faulty light fixtures, lack of proper grounding, and bad wiring can cause a risk of electrical shock or fire.
  • Accessibility: Check the condition of ramps, elevators, handrails, and other accessibility accommodations.
  • Pests: Infestations of rats, cockroaches, and other pests cause unhygienic conditions that negatively impact student well-being.
  • Outdated Technology: Inadequate Internet bandwidth, poor Wifi coverage, and outdated computer equipment can hamper educational progress. Flag these for updates or replacement.

Analyze Results and Update Action Plans

Your facility audit should produce a report highlighting areas where the facilities and building systems didn’t meet the minimum requirements for code compliance or board of education standards. Use this report to create an action plan with initiatives for items that need further investigation, repair, or upgrading, such as HVAC systems, fire safety issues, and improving accessibility.

You can also use the results to develop a preventative maintenance plan for buildings and systems in good working order. Budget for the estimated costs of any anticipated repairs or school construction projects.

Incident IQ improves facility condition assessment (FCA) processes and helps with lifecycle planning, enrollment, budgeting, and more. Its flexible, mobile software works the way you do, so you can focus on what matters most: ensuring optimal learning environments for students. Schedule a demo today to see Incident IQ in action.