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K-12 Workflow Management Blog

Ultimate Guide to School Facility Management

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For students to achieve their academic goals and teachers to provide an ideal learning environment, school facilities have to be clean, safe, and well-maintained. Effective school facility management cuts costs, streamlines your school’s workflows, and keeps everyone comfortable throughout the academic year.

And because educational facilities are often large campuses with multiple systems and areas to consider, the work of a school facilities manager can be complex. This guide is meant to cover the most important elements of facility management to keep your facilities up and running.

The Duties of a School Facilities Manager

One of the most critical facilities manager goals is coordinating with educational staff and administrators. School facilities managers typically supervise maintenance, janitorial, and security teams. They present school leaders and boards with strategic plans for upgrades and improvements, and they work to stay within the district’s approved budget. They also ensure that facility operations systems and structures are compliant with safety and accessibility regulations and standards.

Top Priorities in Educational Facilities Management

Facilities management in education includes a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the issues facilities managers have to address, the following are some of the most critical.

General School Facility Maintenance

Much of a facilities managers time is spent on the general maintenance of school buildings and grounds. Common maintenance tasks include installing new equipment like light bulbs or door handles; replacing broken floor or ceiling tiles; and repairing basic HVAC, plumbing, or electrical issues.

Responding to maintenance requests promptly can be difficult, especially if you’re working in an older building with more frequent problems. Your team can resolve problems more quickly with a software solution that automates work orders. The inventory audit process also helps ensure that you always have adequate supplies and parts on hand to take care of your assets and meet your maintenance needs.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance keeps spending down by reducing the amount of repair tickets your maintenance team receives, thereby prolonging equipment lifespans within your school. By creating preventive maintenance schedules to address specific maintenance needs, you’ll prevent equipment downtime and identify issues before they evolve into full-scale crises, keeping equipment and larger systems performing at optimal levels, longer.

Your preventive maintenance planning should include tasks such as:

  • Equipment cleaning
  • On-time parts replacement
  • Regular inspections
  • Timely lubrication and fluid replacement

Knowing the difference between preventive vs. predictive maintenance, and having a plan for each, can keep your facility equipment in good working order and significantly improve your building operations.

Resource Management & Capital Planning

Facilities managers are in charge of managing K-12 parts and labor, and making sure everyone has access to the resources they need. They must also allocate and distribute funds for short and long-term goals, including immediate operational costs and future initiatives.

The challenge of managing a school facilities budget lies in getting the most from every dollar you spend. Tracking all asset and facilities costs through AM/FM software, and using the K-12 data and analytics tools within that software, will provide a clear picture of their school’s current inventory levels.

Learning Environment Safety

Maintaining a safe learning environment is key to keeping students and staff healthy and productive. While school buildings are designed to help students flourish, security concerns and school maintenance issues can create potentially life-threatening hazards.

For example, an elementary school in South Carolina recently had to shift to eLearning because of concerns about indoor air quality. After performing an inspection, administrators discovered problems with the HVAC system and elevated carbon dioxide levels.

Implementing facility safety checklists is one way to prevent these types of issues from occurring. These checklists instruct team members on how and when to perform certain essential upkeep, inspections, and tests. Using a calendar or ticketing system to ensure tasks are assigned, scheduled, and completed on time will help keep your schools safe.

Space Planning

School facilities are unique because they have to serve so many different purposes. In addition to providing classroom space for students to learn, schools also include libraries and media centers, cafeterias, playgrounds, gyms, admin offices, and more — all in one block of real estate.

To maximize space in your school, facilities managers must carefully put each square foot of space to good use. This may involve designing furniture layouts, establishing organizational systems, and creating multipurpose rooms for a range of school functions. It may even involve using school event management software solutions to assign multipurpose rooms to certain groups and prevent double-booking of areas.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Employing energy efficiency and sustainability measures can reduce your school’s operational costs and help provide a boost to your budget—while also providing a positive impact to the environment as a whole.

Consider energy-saving methods such as:

  • Setting printers to automatically print on both sides of the paper
  • Installing energy-efficient lighting, appliances, windows, etc.
  • Using sensors to turn lights off when no one is in a room
  • Installing solar panels to generate your own renewable energy
  • Using native plants in landscaping that require less water and maintenance

Experts estimate that schools could save 25% of their energy costs by making these types of changes.

Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Management

Facilities managers must protect everyone in their buildings at all times. Natural—and unnatural—disasters can place students and staff at risk, but you can take steps to improve your school’s prevention and response strategies.

Your long-term maintenance plan should include a section for emergency preparedness and response procedures. Within those pages, discuss emergency evacuation procedures; structural integrity for sheltering in place; and security/alarm systems, cameras, and external lighting. In addition, make checklists for your facilities services teams. Have staff regularly inspect fire safety systems, heavy equipment, doors, and windows. Making these inspections part of your regular preventive maintenance reduces the likelihood of injuries if an emergency occurs.

Best Practices for School Facility Management

While you’ll have to tailor your own FM strategy to your school’s budget, size, and age, we’ve found that most K-12 public schools can benefit from the following facilities management best practices.

Use Technology for Facilities Management

Using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can simplify your facilities and asset management, alleviating the burden of repetitive tasks and using automation to streamline your processes. Such work order systems for schools automatically route requests and support tickets to the appropriate people, helping to even out the workload and allowing your team to be more productive and efficient.

Facilities management software can also help you visualize school maintenance analytics, allowing you to spot any silos in your FM processes, frequently encountered issues, issues by location, average customer satisfaction, and more. If possible, use a cloud-based system so that your employees can access the information they need from any location.

Provide School Facilities Management Training & Resources

Provide your facilities management team with adequate school facilities management resources so that they can build on their existing skills and knowledge. Offer your team one (or several) opportunities to take online or in-person training courses to expand their capabilities. Or, provide your own thorough internal training program to share specific institutional knowledge.

In addition to these more general trainings, make use of existing courses and training materials for the softwares and tools that you use day-to-day. For instance, Incident IQ Academy offers a series of self-guided courses that teachers, IT teams, and other school employees can use to better understand facilities management and the Incident IQ platform.

Structure Your Facilities Team Strategically

Your facilities management team structure will depend heavily on your FM budget. By strategically building your team, you can often make the most of this budget.

Similar to IT department structure best practices, strategic FM team-building may present in one of many ways, such as:

  • Use a centralized structure, where team leads and junior members operate from a single location
  • Use a decentralized structure, where smaller team hubs are spread across multiple locations
  • Use a third-party delegation structure, where specialized facility operations tasks are contracted out to local service providers (i.e., janitorial, electrical, plumbing, etc).

With your staffing structure in place, you can make strategic hires for certain positions that are either experts in their specific areas, or generalists that can handle tasks in several areas. When optimizing existing team structures, take the time to understand each employee’s strengths. Place them in corresponding roles, then build your team outwards from there.

Communicate & Report Effectively

Establish a transparent system for sharing information, which several stakeholders can use to access data at their convenience. Some options for sharing data include:

  • Creating or utilizing a cloud-based file system where you can save monthly, quarterly, or annual reports, and which is accessible from anywhere based on permissions.
  • Emailing stakeholders new reports as they’re published
  • Posting reports to school/school board websites for download as needed

Facilities data and analytics reports can often be auto-generated directly within your facilities management software. Often, software tools also allow for auto-sending of these reports. Incident IQ’s analytics tools allow you to automatically create and send reports, or save them in the Incident IQ dashboard for authorized users to access at any time.

Provide these individuals with detailed reports and maintenance analytics that measure performance levels and flag areas for improvement. Incident IQ’s K-12 support analytics tools allow you to access real-time, actionable information for better decision-making and planning.

Overcoming Challenges in School District Facilities Management

EdWeek recently asked teachers and school administrators how they felt their school building facilities scored. 45% of respondents assigned their facilities a score of C or lower, and only 14% of respondents felt that their school buildings deserved an A. The lack of satisfaction with school facilities comes down to certain challenges that district leaders often struggle to overcome.

Budget Constraints and Financial Management

K-12 schools generally have limited budgets that they have to stretch to fund multiple projects, along with emergency repairs and replacements. With fluctuating pricing for labor and parts, it’s important to take steps to control costs.

Developing a preventive maintenance calendar allows you to plan more effectively for upcoming expenses. Additionally, strategic team building makes your employees more productive and avoids wasting time and labor costs. Likewise, automated ticket routing ensures that teams are properly resourced and that they complete tasks more quickly.

Ensuring Consistent Service Quality Across Facilities

Many modern schools are spread across multiple facilities, and providing the same level of service to each of them can be challenging. The first step to creating better study and work environments for all staff and students, regardless of their location, is establishing a sound training plan. If your maintenance teams know how to use all your school’s systems, they can maintain higher performance levels.

Implementing work order systems for schools also helps streamline and automate work requests. When the system routes a ticket to the right person the first time, it makes your team more efficient and minimizes the need for repeated service calls.

Maintaining Older Buildings

A large number of public school facilities in the United States are outdated. Unfortunately, older buildings are more likely to experience equipment failures and need major structural and system repairs. Finding the money to put band-aids on current problems while also planning to upgrade equipment at the end of its lifecycle is difficult.

Long-term maintenance planning helps you look at the whole picture of everything your building will require. You can work toward overarching goals, such as replacing outdated building systems while ensuring that you’re also keeping up with present needs. Preventive maintenance also helps extend the lifespan of existing equipment so you don’t need to invest in replacements as urgently or frequently.

Adapting to Technological Advancements

There’s a huge variety of technology options available for facilities management, and they can change in the blink of an eye. It’s impractical to try to implement every new piece of technology that becomes available, but it’s important to stay on top of trends and use the best possible equipment. Compare how the cost of the purchase and installation will be offset by what you’ll save over its lifetime. Use CMMS and facilities management software to evaluate where you’re currently losing money and examine how better technology could cut costs.

After you sink money into new devices and systems, the last thing you want is for staff to struggle to adapt to the shift. When your team can’t use new systems correctly, it eliminates the value of the investment. Provide your team with ample training and school facilities management resources so they can use your new purchases to their maximum potential.

Best K-12 Facilities Management Software

School facility management is a massive undertaking. With so many aspects of K-12 schools to consider, from inventory management to general maintenance, it’s easy for facilities managers to lose track of important tasks and deplete their budgets. Fortunately, school facilities management software helps manage all these issues in a single place.

Incident IQ’s facility management software solution is built specifically for K-12 schools. From streamlining work orders and tracking parts and labor to planning preventative maintenance and reviewing maintenance analytics, Incident IQ provides the tools you need to help manage every aspect of your school facilities workload.

Schedule a demo to see how Incident IQ brings the best out of your school facilities.