The challenges facing facility managers, especially for school districts, were magnified during COVID and remain with ongoing scrutiny as traditional classrooms resume a normal cadence. Enter new requirements to support proper distancing, restroom and desk cleaning, and elevator maintenance.
When COVID first shuttered classrooms in March 2020, the nation’s school districts faced much more than how to contain germs and viruses. In a study released later that June, 54% of the nation’s public school leaders said updates or replacement of major systems or features in their schools were taking priority. HVAC systems were among those in greatest need, which is made more significant to foster air quality and climate controls.
Even with students, teachers, and faculty off campus, facilities management is never easy, especially in larger districts that oversee hundreds of schools. Available tools and technology like this for facility reservations and numerous other functions can make it more manageable and centralized:
- Tracks facility maintenance costs and use
- Makes data accessible in real-time for multiple distributed to administrators and personnel
- Schedules facility services and maintenance tasks
- Automates scheduling and reservation requests for internal users and outside organizations
Here are some steps to put it in place:
As you downshift your current school year and gear up for a new one, having a facility management plan in place (and updating it as needed) can support the success of planned summer projects and identify crucial needs in particular buildings.
Make sure facilities managers meet with principals to discuss any issues that surfaced during the year. This input has been found to be essential in determining the needs of all district-owned properties across the nation to handle the return of thousands of students and employees.
Meet with business administrators to review associated expenses and position yourself to complete any repairs, upgrades, or general maintenance within the parameters of the district’s budget with advance planning and monitoring extensive needs.
Thoroughly evaluate all major and minor construction projects and create completion schedules that take the return of students to their classes into consideration. Plan large projects for the summer and schedule smaller ones during breaks throughout the school year.
As the school year gets closer, stay on top of which facilities still require upkeep and which are immediately available. This is particularly important and helpful for administrators. Create and use a master checklist system to document and track every element for attention in a specific building.
Build smaller, space-specific checklists to post outside each room with as much detail to ensure end-to-end cleaning of every building. Carpet removal and replacement, top-to-bottom disinfection, floor waxing and refinishing, and air filter replacement help minimize the return of irritants like allergies and asthma triggers.
Checklists like these can be incorporated into a robust calendaring and maintenance platform. Every aspect of back-to-school cleaning and construction processes can be tracked to block off and prioritize specific areas and tasks for attention.
Multiple groups vie for the same facility year-round for community meetings and morning and after-care programs. Summer camp activities and classroom preparation by teachers add another layer of scheduling challenges.
None of these consider the maintenance task needs of facility management teams! Be honest and transparent with all stakeholders to stay ahead of potential conflicts, using the same management system for maintenance scheduling, to satisfy space requirements without double booking.
To make sure facility staff have complete access to any area in a district building and that community groups are aware that access to space may change, be sure to build back-to-school preparation time into your calendar system.
It can be challenging to complete the final details, but this is a step to guarantee a smooth opening more closely by avoiding summer camp activities and other gatherings to be hosted too soon to the first day of school.
Administrators should retain highly specific scheduling records to specify which facilities are scheduled when those facilities are available, and those are not yet ready for the new school year to maintain good communication and transparency throughout the district. Community groups can access available or reserved space after requests have been filtered by a centralized system. By doing this, the district and the community can communicate more effectively.
Groups can anticipate any potential changes to meeting times well in advance if districts disclose these needs to the larger community with transparent and accessible calendars. When the school year starts, certain groups might be permitted to utilize school facilities after class hours.
It’s a year-round task to keep buildings and grounds in optimal condition to support the educational needs of a school and be made available for the community, too. With advanced planning and solid tools and technology in place, you can streamline the process and optimize functionality.