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How K-12 Facilities Impact Student Learning and Health

How K-12 Facilities Impact Student Learning and Health

School administrators spend countless hours trying to keep their facilities in top shape through maintenance, regular inspections and other preventative tasks and it can be a lot and detract from prescribed roles and responsibilities. Students and the educational community-at-large benefit from positive environments, particularly in terms of student health and learning. Schools have a duty to do everything they can to promote a healthy learning environment, and facilities management is a weighty component of that.

The well-being of both students and staff is a top priority, so if facilities don’t support that, these individuals suffer. There are many parts of the educational process that rely on having a comfortable, safe environment; for example, temperature and lighting.  If the temperature is too hot or cold or the lighting is harsh and uncomfortable, students may become frustrated and struggle to focus, and teachers may have a difficult time conducting lessons and become easily frustrated. Ensuring a safe, positive and beneficial school environment can help you keep students, teachers, and staff work at their best and drive more positive attitudes about the school as a whole.

School Facilities and Student Health

Researchers have found that the quality of school facilities impact student learning.  Students are able to focus better in the proper environment, are more likely to attend classes, and may be less likely to get sick. These qualities all come from classrooms that have proper ventilation, are well-lit, and maintain efficient cleaning schedules. Students that aren’t distracted or uncomfortable because of environmental factors are students who can remain attentive and retain information.

School Facilities and Student Health

The same idea applies to teachers. A teacher who is able to properly see her students, without the distraction or worry of temperature inconsistencies is a teacher who can more effectively focus on his or her students. If their work environment is safe, healthy, and comfortable, it stands to reason that teachers will enjoy their workday much more, passing the benefits on to their students. Favorable facilities conditions may even improve teaching quality since veteran teachers may be less likely to leave, and qualified teachers line up for positions at well-kept schools.

A better learning environment isn’t the only benefit of adequate facilities. The improvement in the physical health of the students is also substantial. A student with asthma may struggle to pay attention in a room with low air quality. Students who are more susceptible to certain illnesses and bacteria may be more likely to get sick in a classroom that doesn’t routinely sanitize surfaces. These are all factors that can prevent a student from showing up to class, lowering a school’s attendance and performance ratings.

So how do you prevent these things from happening to your students? Improving maintenance procedures and reviewing the performance of your ventilation, lighting and custodial services are a few strategies. Whatever you do, it is crucial to remember the link between your school facilities and student health.

3 Ways That School Facilities Impact Student Health

Now that we’ve established the importance of school facilities in education, let’s go over exactly how they influence each other and how facility quality impacts students. In this section, we’ll go over some of the aspects that can most noticeably affect a school environment and help or hinder your students’ learning.

3 Ways That School Facilities Impact Student Health

1. Temperature

Many of us have come to treat air conditioning as a necessity, but for many schools around the country, it doesn’t exist. As average temperatures climb, plenty of students in the United States go to class expecting to sweat in high heat instead of learning. Even schools that spend most of the year with cold weather can deal with excessively high temperatures in late spring and summer. When it comes to education, air conditioning can be vital to the continued learning and performance of students.

Anecdotally, many teachers and students are familiar with the struggle of when it gets “too hot to learn.” Teachers say that children may fight to pay attention, become less compliant and just want to do nothing in the sweltering heat. A study conducted by researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School tells us that for each increase in one degree over 90℉, students lose nearly one percent of the year’s learning. Temperatures over 100℉ have an effect that is up to 50% larger.

A district’s wealth influences its likelihood of having air conditioning, so poorer districts struggle the most with significant heat issues. All around the country, in both wealthy and non-wealthy areas, you can find schools lacking in air conditioning.

  • In Detroit, just one in three schools has air conditioning.
  • In New York City, a quarter of classrooms lack air conditioning.
  • Hawaii, where temperatures year-round are often in the upper 80s, only has air conditioning in 40 percent of classrooms.

A well-functioning air conditioning system can keep almost all of these heat-related problems at bay. Unfortunately, many schools that do have air don’t have very efficient systems and may still deal with inconsistent or nonfunctioning heating and cooling. About 30 percent of public schools consider their air conditioning and heating system to be fair or poor.

Installing a quality air conditioning system and keeping it maintained can help you keep these issues at bay. Students can focus better, improve their academic performances and end the school day with a little less sweat.

2. Lighting

Lighting is one aspect of modern buildings that has changed quite a bit since the construction of many 20th-century schools. Until the ’50s, natural light was the dominant approach to keeping classrooms bright. Large windows were used to illuminate the space, but as electricity became cheaper and easier to obtain, natural daylight was pushed aside. It turns out that natural light has a variety of positive influences on learning and productivity due to its psychological and physiological effects. It results in higher levels of vitamin D and energy while improving sleep and reducing the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Designing for natural daylight is an excellent way to promote alertness and productivity in the classroom.

But daylight isn’t without its disadvantages. It can’t be the only light source, of course, as inclement weather, early winter darkness and nighttime events all require a secondary source of lighting. Daylight can also be frustrating in some classrooms, especially those using substantial amounts of technology, due to the glare large windows create. Using low-glare designs, adjustable lights and adapting to the amount of daylight present can all combat the adverse aspects of natural lighting.

Lighting is an area where many schools can save money through energy-saving solutions. Replacing old, headache-inducing lights with LED bulbs can reduce energy costs, decrease the need for maintenance and even improve safety due to their reduced heat output. These eco-friendly lights can also pair with advanced lighting controls. Connecting your lights to the Internet of Things (IoT) can automate the task of keeping your building bright. You can reduce consumption by turning off lights that are not in use or implement lights that respond to the amount of natural daylight present, reducing or increasing the brightness as necessary. Many of these lighting solutions can also help make your facility more sustainable.

3. Cleanliness

Basic cleanliness is a fundamental aspect of any environment, but especially one where the health and safety of children is a priority. Schools are filled with germs, and many children don’t know how to protect themselves against viruses and bacteria. Millions of children get taken out of school for illnesses that proper sanitation can help reduce. Encouraging basic cleaning and hygienic practices can go a long way in cultivating a clean building. Make sure teachers do their part to stay safe and show their students how to, as well. Coughing into the elbow, using tissues and following other hygienic practices can be especially helpful during flu season to reduce absences and improve performance. Teachers can disinfect commonly touched fixtures like doorknobs, computer mice and light switches frequently.

Your custodial staff, of course, are crucial in this area. Efficient and streamlined custodial schedules can help them complete more work in less time, keeping the school as clean as possible. Appropriate planning also helps the team stay ahead of maintenance issues, preventing breakdowns or outages that could bring the school day to a halt. Integrating a work order system with facility management software may help to stay on top of cleaning tasks. Some things that custodians need to keep a careful watch for include:

  • Leaks
  • High Humidity
  • Standing water

Any one of these can lead to serious health hazards like mold, broken pipes and bacteria growth. Checking for them regularly can help prevent risks to your students and staff. Keeping your air quality at a high standard makes the day much more pleasant for everyone in the building.

The benefit of a clean school isn’t found in the germs killed or the carpets vacuumed but in the attitudes of its inhabitants. An orderly, clean school conveys a message of sincerity and dedication. Students see that their school holds high standards, and teachers know that they work in a place that takes education seriously. These positive connotations can help improve the learning environment, and they give visitors an excellent impression of your commitment to the educational atmosphere.

Updated Facilities and the Learning Environment

One crucial component of the learning environment that required adaptation in recent years is the addition of technology. Though technologies like SmartBoards have been around since the ’90s, policies of one-to-one device usage and developments in instructional techniques have changed the landscape of the traditional classroom. The classic layout with rows of desks facing a teacher and a whiteboard is less common, as recent findings of learning environments have encouraged new desk layouts and innovative seating options. Classrooms have had to change and adapt to the needs of new technology and new education methods. The way you approach improving school facilities must take these into account as well.

Some of the challenges of 21st-century learning involve providing sufficient and accessible locations for charging educational devices, such as laptops, across an entire classroom and creating glare-free lighting so students can easily see the screen. The modern learning landscape also offers unique opportunities. Smart lighting and thermostats can help you automate your utilities to be more energy-efficient and comfortable for the teachers and students.

Updated Facilities and the Learning Environment

The benefits of improving school facilities are widespread. From adding glare-free lighting in a classroom to free-flowing air conditioning in the gymnasium, you can help your students learn better at all points throughout the day. You can influence their education at various points, and changes in a student’s environment influence several different spheres of the educational world.

Facility management systems determine the quality of the environment, which shapes the attitudes of students, teachers and staff. Their attitudes, in turn, affect their teaching and learning behaviors, which impact educational performance. Educational performance can determine future outcomes of individuals and society as a whole. The system is intertwined, and the resulting academic performance can even influence a school’s access to resources and benefits in the future. Even something that seems to be relatively simple, like the choice of lighting in a classroom, can have wide-reaching effects. This demonstrates the importance of school buildings in modern education.

Changes to your school’s facilities can offer benefits across various areas of education. Students can focus better, teachers enjoy their work more, and everyone gets a better attitude toward the facility they spend time in every weekday. Because they have limited budgets, many districts are hesitant to spend money on infrastructure like lights and HVAC systems, but the improvements speak for themselves. A general sense of well-being does wonders for the atmosphere in a school. Unfortunately, more than half of U.S. public schools in 2012 had inadequate structural facilities. Schools that serve students of lower-income families and large populations of people of color are particularly at a disadvantage.

An investment in facilities is an investment in student education. Better-performing students may net you more resources, and you could save money through energy-saving upgrades, making your district eco-friendly as well. A school’s facilities should be representative of its staff, values and philosophies. If your school believes student learning is a top priority, it cannot underestimate the value of the learning environment. Often, educators interpret this concept as desk layout or classroom decorations, but aspects they may take for granted, like air quality and temperature, are just as essential. This atmosphere is a significant player in determining student success — and SiteLogiq can help you cultivate it.

A Custom Approach to Facilities Management

Here at SitelogIQ, we understand that your district is unique. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for facilities management, which is why we take the time to comprehensively assess the needs of your facilities, district and community. With this information, we will develop a plan for how to improve your school’s facilities and the learning space for your students. We can address a variety of building management needs, including lighting, HVAC and design. Our team of professionals can tear down deteriorating architecture or put up state-of-the-art window designs as part of a turnkey solution to help your students enjoy a safe and comfortable learning environment.

A Custom Approach to Facilities Management

If you need help developing an effective solution to boost the health and learning of your staff and students, SitelogIQ is an industry leader in K-12 facility management solutions. Contact us today to learn more about our energy consultation services and how we can elevate your students’ education to the next level.