Thursday, September 18, 2014

Do School Facilities Really Impact A Child's Education?

Excerpts from--
By John B. Lyons
"Learning is a complex activity that supremely tests students' motivation and physical condition. Teaching resources, teachers' skill, and curriculum -- these all play a vital role in a child's education. But what about the physical condition and design of the actual school facility itself? How do they shape a child's learning experience?"

"Today's busy parents may never know. With most of them working, parents generally find little time to experience, much less evaluate, the physical condition of their child's school. When they do visit, often during parent-teacher's night, discussions will mostly focus on their child's learning, achievement, and progress, not on school maintenance or design issues. There are few opportunities for parents to observe a classroom or school during the school day. But it is just during this time that a significant number of students and teachers struggle with such things as noise, glare, mildew, lack of fresh air, and hot or cold temperatures. About 40 percent of our schools report unsatisfactory environmental conditions."

"News about these environmental nuisances is beginning to appear more and more in the media. And research is uncovering growing evidence showing that conditions like these and many other aspects of school facilities have a huge and often negative impact on children's educations."

"Temperature and Ventilation Concerns Related to troubling asthma problems in schools are concerns about temperature and ventilation. Faulty classroom temperature and air circulation are one of the worst problems in schools today. They may be caused by poor design, but often tem from subsequent construction changes, inadequate maintenance and the fact that many schools' heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are simply inefficient and outdated."

"School enrollments in some areas of the country are still growing substantially. And with the average new high school costing $26 million to build, it is not surprising to see school districts purchasing record numbers of prefabricated classrooms, commonly called relocatables or portables, to keep classrooms from bursting at the seams. These structures can have a profound impact on a child's education. About a third of our schools use portable classrooms and about one fifth use temporary instructional space such as cafeterias and gyms, etc."

"Relocatables have improved greatly since the early "off-the-street" trailers first employed, and they undoubtedly meet a temporary need. Usually acquired through group district purchases at the lowest price, relocatables are often the weakest link in the educational facility chain -- a generally austere solution built to minimal standards -- the quick fix that too often becomes permanent."

"Not all portable classrooms are bad, but most have inherent problems that are difficult to solve. Relocatables often incorporate materials that off-gas formaldehyde, a significant health-risk for some
individuals. They are generally located away from the main school facility and sited on inadequately prepared fields where walking and lighting are poor. Or they are placed on parking lots, which have their own attendant problems. Students and teachers must transfer not within a building but between buildings for restrooms, media centers, gym classes and other specialized classrooms such as art, science, and music. All relocatables, whether they are the most basic structures or something substantially more, require high maintenance."

"While it has been said, "A good teacher can teach anywhere," a growing body of research literature also strongly suggests a direct relation between the condition and utility of the school facility and learning. The classroom is the most important area within a school. It is here that students spend most of their time, hopefully in an environment conducive to learning."

"Learning in the classroom requires a reasonable level of concentration, listening, writing, and reading. Individual classrooms and entire facilities need to be evaluated, not only on how they meet changing educational requirements, but also on how they meet the environmental requirements for health, safety, and security."

Exerpts from--
"Do School Facilities Really Impact A Child's Education?"
By John B. Lyons

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