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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Yan Approximately a quarter of schools indicated that their roof was in poor or borderline condition. More than 30% of schools reported that their building energy efficiency was unsatisfactory, and one-third of schools reported that their student drop-off area was in poor or borderline condition. Assessments of building and site condition, design, and utilization are not available at the national level (Filardo, 2008). However, to effectively monitor and enhance the school facilities’ conditions in rural Pennsylvania, state policy makers should create a comprehensive set of minimum standards for facilities’ conditions and conduct an ongoing inventory assessment of statewide facilities. By providing an inventory of existing conditions among rural schools in Pennsylvania, policymakers will have the details they need to make informed decisions about future educational needs. Such practices will ensure that policymakers, parents, and other stakeholders are aware of deficiencies in school conditions and their capacity so that funds can be directed to the neediest schools. Policy makers should also establish regulations and tools to facilitate school districts to regularly evaluate and estimate their school building conditions and release their evaluations to the public. Currently, the review of school building conditions is left up to each district. At the state level, there are no requirements to do this on a regular basis. Most districts include a section on buildings and grounds in their 5-year strategic plans but they are not bound to complete anything in those plans. Most districts just make very general comments regarding their intentions and none really go through the formal process that PDE requires. Only if they seek reimbursement through the PDE for any renovation or construction projects are they required to formally evaluate the conditions of their buildings. Policies and laws need to be formed in order to change the current mechanism of school building condition review both on the school district level and on the state level. To gain support from the community, policy makers should also encourage school districts to provide a clear estimate of what its building construction or repair needs are, along with a plan for raising the funds necessary to meet their building needs. The evaluation should provide information about the building’s age, physical condition, telecommunications readiness, safety accessibility, and energy efficiency. Watts Hull (2009) cites how energy prices have increased dramatically and schools have had to deal with the ever-increasing utility costs eating away at a larger share of their budget. The estimate from the school district could in turn provide critical information to state level policy makers, lawmakers, as well as school districts and communities as they plan for changes in rural environments. Rethink under-utilized school buildings and maximize public use of school facilities. As a result of this population shift, state policy makers and rural school administrators should take into account that many rural schools enroll far fewer students than they have space for; which is under-utilizing current facilities. As the survey results indicate, elementary and secondary schools in Western and Central Pennsylvania will be more likely than those in the East to be severely under-enrolled. Taking full advantage of school buildings with extra space to meet today’s educational program needs is an important challenge for rural school districts. State policy makers could consider facilitating school districts to consolidate schools and shift some programs to different schools. To do this, strategies need to be established for school districts to update and examine attendance records and plans for entire school buildings. Consolidation of special populations of students, or slightly shifting students among buildings might allow school districts to distribute students more evenly across school buildings. 31 Vol. 3, No. 1, 2012


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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