Incident IQ

K-12 Workflow Management Blog

6 Best Practices for Supervising K-12 School Maintenance Tasks

Article Contents

The day-to-day activities that bring public school classrooms to life aren’t possible without regular school maintenance. Without it, equipment failures, broken technology, and dangerous conditions disrupt classrooms. The result: teachers are left without the resources they need. Worse, schools may be forced to close unnecessarily, making it difficult for teachers to meet their instructional goals.

Effective school leaders and facilities managers prioritize maintenance tasks. They do their best to create an efficient system of supervision, recognizing that doing so is in the best interests of everyone who works and studies inside every school building.

School maintenance is essential to the health and safety of students and staff. Because maintenance improves the lifespan of your equipment and technology, it’s also an essential part of maximizing your facilities budget. Additionally, regular maintenance is the key to creating and preserving a school’s aesthetic appeal, which studies have shown helps increase student engagement, equity, and performance.

Overseeing maintenance tasks within a school facility presents unique challenges that require a high level of organization and planning. In this article, you’ll learn how practices like delegation, automation, and data analysis enable facilities managers to better supervise all of the maintenance tasks that have both direct and indirect effects on their school programs.

Common Tasks in K-12 Building Maintenance

School building maintenance involves a broad range of activities, all of which are vital to the success of your school district. Some of the most common maintenance tasks that are necessary for school facilities include:

  • Cleaning: School cleanliness has a direct effect on student absenteeism and enrollment. Maintenance and custodial teams must disinfect and clean all school areas, particularly any high-touch surfaces and ducts used for ventilating air.
  • Inspections: Implementing a set inspection schedule for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, electrical systems, and alarm systems helps prevent costly failures and lengthy disruptions in school operations. The federal government also requires schools to inspect building materials for hazardous substances like asbestos.
  • Repairs and replacements: Some parts, such as air filters, may require regular replacements. Maintenance departments are also responsible for repairing and replacing broken or faulty plumbing, equipment, and structural features like roofs, which may need periodic carpentry repairs due to weather and natural wear and tear.
  • Landscaping: The maintenance needs of a school don’t stop at the front door. Caring for outdoor spaces, including playgrounds, sidewalks, and lawns, is equally important for student safety and engagement.

While this list highlights some of the most important elements of school maintenance, it’s far from exhaustive. A facility manager’s job description includes oversight over maintenance in every part of the school, from the cafeteria to the classroom.

6 Best Practices for Keeping Maintenance Activities On Schedule

Every school district is unique, which makes it difficult to create a one-size-fits-all plan for school maintenance. However, these best practices will help guide you toward a more useful and practical approach to supervising maintenance tasks no matter the structure or size of your school.

Create a Strategic Facilities Management Plan

A facilities management plan serves as the foundation for maintenance within your school buildings. This document should focus on initiatives for the current school year while also considering initiatives in subsequent years. Details for the current year should be flexible, allowing room for unexpected maintenance tasks that are certain to occur throughout the year.

The initiatives for the school programs in your district will differ based on the insights and analysis of school board members, administrators, and staff. They may also align with your school’s mission statement. Some initiatives will have a more prominent place in your maintenance plan, particularly if they require a significant investment of time and money. These might include tasks like:

  • Installing new playgrounds
  • Improving energy efficiency with solar panels and LED bulbs
  • Replacing kitchen appliances
  • Upgrading classrooms with 21st-century technology

Although these tasks consume a large portion of your budget, they’re generally annual initiatives that occur during a very specific period of time. The bulk of your maintenance will focus on day-to-day tasks, such as fixing HVAC units, repairing broken playground equipment, and inspecting boilers. Through strategic planning, you will not only set a schedule for completing major, one-off tasks but also leave room and money to take care of daily maintenance needs.

Schedule All Preventive Maintenance & Regular Inspections

Successful teaching requires an environment free of disruptions, and, unfortunately, maintenance activity can become a serious distraction. Student learning should never be interrupted by the sound of banging tools in the hallway or by maintenance crew entering and leaving the room.

To avoid these scenarios, facilities managers can schedule all preventive maintenance and regular inspections to occur during downtimes throughout the school year. For example, the maintenance department might install new equipment during summer break when regular school programs are out of session. Likewise, maintenance staff might hold off on non-emergency repairs until after the school day and extracurricular programs have concluded.

Developing a school facility maintenance plan involves carefully evaluating the school schedule and timelines for replacements and repairs. School leaders can create a schedule at the beginning of the academic year, but they will likely need to periodically revisit it and make changes as needed.

Set Up Standardized & Automated Workflows

With such a lengthy list of responsibilities, finding ways for facilities managers and maintenance teams to save time is essential. Standardization and automation are key strategies to reduce the amount of time that supervisors spend tracking, confirming, and following up on work orders.

Rather than manually entering the details of each maintenance task at every stage, school leaders can use automated systems that allow them to easily keep up with details like:

  • Assets tied to specific work orders
  • Maintenance staff assigned to certain tasks
  • Labor and parts costs
  • Resolution to recently completed tasks

When facilities managers streamline their work orders, they avoid wasting time trying to decipher or locate documents in different formats and departments. They also make it easy for teachers and staff to submit new maintenance requests when an issue arises, ensuring that the maintenance department addresses problems and concerns as quickly as possible. These smooth and efficient workflows improve the maintenance experience for everyone involved.

Assign a Project Manager

When a single employee is juggling too many tasks, one is sure to fall by the wayside. This can be potentially damaging when it comes to school maintenance, where a seemingly minor oversight can result in a system failure that causes a school to shut its doors for days or weeks. Rather than handling everything alone, a facilities manager can appoint a project manager who is responsible for overseeing all maintenance activities.

As part of the maintenance management team, a project manager’s responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring the necessary data for all maintenance tasks has been entered into the system
  • Following up on tasks when they approach their expected completion times
  • Monitoring the quality of work by each member of the maintenance team
  • Verifying that all maintenance tasks are being completed based on the timelines outlined in your facility management plan

In many cases, you might select a project manager from a pool of existing employees who are already familiar with your public school buildings. While this person might have extensive experience in maintenance, they might not be as comfortable in a leadership position or using your maintenance software system.

If your project manager requires additional support, reach out to the human resources department for assistance with providing professional development and education programs in leadership skills. Additionally, many maintenance software companies offer hands-on training programs to ensure that project managers are able to fully utilize your school’s maintenance software system.

Set Department Goals, Collect Data, & Review Reports Regularly

To truly assess the success of your maintenance department, it’s important to set annual goals and honestly assess whether you have met them. Your goals should be ambitious yet realistic, and they should be specific enough that you can track them with real data over the course of the year. In other words, setting a goal to improve your departmental performance is too vague to yield any actionable results. Instead, you should set easily defined and measurable goals, such as:

  • Reducing equipment failures
  • Cutting costs
  • Increasing safety
  • Lengthening the lifespans of equipment
  • Maintaining compliance
  • Completing work orders on time

Tracing these and other key performance indicators (KPIs) allows you to improve your decision-making and strategic planning for the upcoming school year. Using a maintenance software solution that offers automated reports simplifies the process of gathering and analyzing the data you need to assess your departmental performance. Each quarter, facilities managers and maintenance supervisors should run reports with information like task completion times and maintenance costs.

This information is a vital component of your problem-solving abilities because it allows you to hone in on potential issues within your department, including bottlenecks. For instance, if the data you collect shows that you have a significant backlog of incomplete maintenance tasks, you can use that information to identify areas for improvement, such as insufficient staffing, improper training, or faulty equipment that requires maintenance and takes away from other important tasks.

Share Departmental Progress With Relevant Stakeholders

Although school maintenance might seem like an internal concern, many outside parties have an interest in your department’s progress, successes, and setbacks. Thus, after you have collected and reviewed maintenance-related data, it’s crucial that you share it in a clear, comprehensible way. Be prepared to present your data to:

  • Stakeholders
  • School board members
  • School administrators
  • Outsourced service providers like electricians or custodial crews
  • Teachers and staff

While sharing this information might seem like an invitation for criticism, it’s an opportunity for facility managers to hold themselves accountable for the department’s performance. More importantly, it allows you to receive potentially valuable feedback and remain focused on new strategies for reducing ticket completion times, improving efficiency, and reducing expenses.

Use a CMMS to Do It All

Time and again, research has shown that school maintenance is important not only for the health and safety of students but also for their ability to perform to their full potential, regardless of whether they’re in elementary school or middle school. In many cases, failures in school maintenance exacerbate inequities, increasing the academic divide for students from low-income or minority communities, especially when they reach high school age. With so much at stake, maintenance supervisors can benefit from improving their oversight processes with strategies like appointing project managers, automating workflows, and planning strategically.

Some of these best practices might seem daunting, but they can all be managed or made easier with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Incident IQ allows you to manage all of your school facilities’ maintenance services and assets on a single platform, making it easier to track, compile, and analyze crucial data. With the facilities management and asset management software from Incident IQ, you can improve partnerships with third-party service providers, enhance your problem-solving and decision-making skills, and create a more successful facilities maintenance plan for your school district.To learn more about how Incident IQ can improve the maintenance program in your public schools, reach out for more information and to schedule a free demo. Whether you need to track your maintenance tasks, boost your team’s efficiency, or identify areas where you can cut costs, you can accomplish all this and more with Incident IQ.