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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Educational Equity in Rural Schools Eisenbrey, 2011, p. 1). The National Center for Education Statistics (1999) reported rural schools across the U.S. to be, on average, 41 years old, with 28% of schools built before 1950 (Hunter, 2009). Recent research confirms this as well (Filardo et al., 2011). Watts Hull (2009) found a great deal of schools built during the construction boom of the 1930-1950s is now in a period of “tenuous functional existence as costs for renovations and repairs begin to eclipse the cost of replacement” (p. 1). This indicates that a number of schools may be in need of renovation in order to accommodate recent technology and the handicap needs of their students. Furthermore, technology lags behind in districts outside of urban areas in Pennsylvania. Fewer rural school facilities have Internet and technology access relative to urban sites (NCES, 2002). This supports the importance of examining the current capabilities of school buildings within districts, analyzing population trends, and preparing in advance for population shifts. Existing facilities may need to be updated and new ones may need to be outfitted with necessary and costly equipment. In Pennsylvania and across the country, the input costs of building and renovation, from steel to concrete, are rising to a level that makes it important that districts plan carefully to meet upcoming needs (Sack, 2004). Another issue that makes it important for school districts to prepare for future needs is the changing face of student learning environments. Such elements as technology readiness and current instructional requirements are critical elements of appropriate and effective instruction in the 21st century (Sheets, 2009). Purpose of the Study This study sought to address four critical needs of rural school districts. First, the study conducted an inventory of the state’s school buildings that included their age, physical condition, telecommunications readiness, and other relevant indicators related to the cost of maintaining, upgrading, or replacing facilities. Currently, no such specific information is readily available that targets rural schools. Second, this study conducted an analysis of enrollment trends to identify whether school buildings in rural school districts will meet future needs. While some data about enrollment trends were available at the state level, no such information exists on a district level for rural schools. Third, with the high costs of construction, school districts need to carefully pinpoint areas of need. There is a need to identify those school districts that will be at risk of under- or over- capacity or utilization. Currently, this information is unavailable through national or state data sources. Finally, no instrument exists that will assist school districts in determining future building needs. The information gathered by this study led to the development of a statistical model that will help school districts plan effectively for building projects and/or consolidation. Research Questions The following questions guided the research:  What are the current conditions (age, physical condition, telecommunications readiness, and other relevant indicators related to the cost of maintaining, upgrading, or replacing facilities) of school buildings in the state of Pennsylvania?  What are the enrollment trends of students in Pennsylvania at both the district and state level?  Which school districts are at risk of under- or over-capacity or utilization? December 2012 / ACEF 20


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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