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Most large school districts serve high density/high growth areas and have a continuing need for new construction or renovation within their schools to keep pace with the growing student population. But the reality is many districts, mainly due to funding considerations, are struggling to keep up with the pace needed.

Teachers in very large schools were the most likely to have reported a completed construction or renovation project in the past five years. In highly populated areas, where voters are concerned with maintaining real estate values that go along with a strong public school system, bond referendums typically pass by wide margins. Conversely, in areas of the country that have a high level of senior citizens and retirees, rural populations, or unionized workers, the passage of school bonds can be more difficult.

Completed Projects by School Size

Completed Projects by School Type

Teachers in middle/junior high, senior high, and combined K-12 schools were all more likely to have undergone a construction or renovation project in the past five years. Completed construction or renovation projects were rated highest for having affected the culture of the school, attracting new students, and improving student engagement. As technology innovations are introduced into the market, the higher grades have been the most eager to incorporate these changes into their schools, prompting the need for renovation and accommodation at the higher grade levels.

Planned Projects by Demographics

The following results look at the demographics of the respondents with planned construction in their schools. Teachers from medium-size schools (27%), from schools with medium low poverty (30%), and from senior high schools (31%) indicated the most that their schools have plans for construction or renovation in the next five years.

Sources of Funding for Construction Projects

The top source of funding for completed and planned construction or renovation projects were from bonds (note, though, that many educators were unsure of where the funding came from or would come from). A bond issue is when a unit of government (state, city, county, school district), places a ballot question before the voters, asking them to approve or deny the proposed spending. A school bond election is a bond issue used by a public-school district, typically to finance a building project. These measures are placed on the ballot by district school boards to be approved or defeated by the voting public.

Source of Funding for Construction Projects by School Size

Educators at small schools (17%) were significantly less likely than those at very large schools (45%) to have received construction or renovation funding from bonds. The largest percentage of respondents in almost all categories indicated they don’t know the source of funding. It is unfortunate that teachers are not more aware of how funding happens. If the educators were more knowledgeable about potential sources, or how these decisions are made, they could help lobby for additional support and resources within their communities.

Does your School Need Construction or a Renovation?

Nearly two-thirds of the respondents believed their school is in need of construction or renovation. Considering many schools across the U.S. are aging, with the majority being built over 50 years ago, many buildings simply need updating.

Desired Projects by Demographics

Teachers from medium-size and small schools, and schools with medium to-high poverty levels were more likely to have responded that their schools need construction or renovation in the next five years. As stated earlier, large school districts that serve high density/high growth areas have a continuing need for new construction and renovation.

Areas Affected by Construction

What changes are happening within the school walls? Are the walls of the school itself being rebuilt? This section looks at what specific areas of the survey respondents’ schools were affected by completed construction projects, as well as what areas are planned to be worked on in future projects. The top areas constructed or renovated in the past five years (as well as planned in the next five years) included the entire school (43%) and the individual classrooms (31%). Following those are modifications to technology lab spaces (13%), playgrounds/sports fields (13%), the library/media center (12%), as well as a variety of other areas.

Areas Affected by Construction, by School Size

Teachers in small (49%) and medium-size (49%) schools were significantly more likely than those in very large schools (36%) to have had a construction or renovation to the entire school. Very large schools were significantly more likely to have had construction or renovation to technology/lab space (17%) and classrooms (36%) than were smaller schools.

Areas Affected by Construction, by School Type

Elementary school educators were significantly more likely than those at middle/junior high schools to have had a construction or renovation to playgrounds or sports fields (17%). Outdoor play is seen as integral to the proper development of younger students (K-8). Senior high school educators were significantly more likely than those at elementary schools to have had a construction or renovation to technology/lab space (20%) and classrooms (37%). Technology upgrades are more in demand for older students.

Key Takeaways

Construction Phase: Slightly more than a third of educators surveyed completed a construction or renovation project in the past five years, and nearly a quarter work in schools that are planning a construction or renovation project sometime in the next five years. Nearly two thirds of the respondents believed their school is in need of construction or renovation. The higher the poverty level in a school, the more likely the teachers responded as needing construction. Schools with higher poverty face many budgetary challenges, including maintaining and upgrading the building or facilities. Schools with high poverty are more likely to have limited funding for all aspects of their school’s functioning—renovations or construction projects included.

Construction Funding: The top source of funding for completed and planned construction or renovation projects were from bonds. The likelihood that grant funding was used for construction or renovation increased with the level of poverty in the school.

Construction Areas: The top areas constructed or renovated in the past five years, as well as and planned in the next five years, included the entire school (43%) and the individual classrooms (31%). Teachers in small (49%) and medium-size (49%) schools were significantly more likely than those in very large schools (36%) to have had a construction or renovation to the entire school.

Construction Rating: Completed construction or renovation projects were rated highest for having affected the culture of the school (32%), attracting new students (23%), and improving student engagement (22%).

Renovating your classroom

When considering school construction and renovations, this is also the perfect time to consider how to enhance your classroom to be a 21st century learning environment as well. The key factors that support children’s learning are having a space that allows choice, movement, collaboration and flexibility. This is where Natural Pod can help – we are committed to supporting educators and children to thrive in this new era of education. Our goal is to enhance your vision of a better learning environment by offering quality, modular items that can adapt to the curriculum and your project based learning. Download our catalog or contact account management team for ideas and support transforming your space.

About this Research and Methodology

State of the K-12 Market 2018: The Impact of Learning Spaces on Student Success, is based on an online survey conducted by MDR, with a nationwide sample of K-12 public school educators. Teachers and librarian/media specialists were sent an email invitation to take the survey and 1,685 completed it. Data collection occurred from May 24 through June 17, 2018. Respondents were asked if their school had undergone a construction or renovation in the past five years, or if their school has a renovation planned in the near future. If neither was the case, they were asked if their school is in need of a renovation. Throughout the report, how the respondents answered this question will be referenced for perspective. Nearly one-fourth of the respondents work in schools planning a renovation, over one-third reported construction took place recently, and nearly two-thirds believe their school needs construction or a renovation in the next five years. This points to the importance teachers place on having modern, updated learning spaces in which to teach. Learn more about MDR Education reports at mdreducation.com

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