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Modernizing America’s Schools
posted by: Ruthie | March 19, 2013, 07:55 PM   

While there is a plethora of research about the quality of schools in America, there is little information about the state of bricks and mortar school infrastructure across the country. According to a recent assessment from the Center for Green Schools, there is a $270 billion spending gap in repairing and maintaining school buildings. In order to update and modernize schools across the country, it is estimated that state and local officials would need to spend nearly $542 billion.

The news is raising questions about the cost of maintaining schools and the need to find innovative, cost effective ways of remodeling existing buildings. Almost 45% of schools built in 2012 were considered "green," according to Michelle Russo, a co-author of the report and the director of green content and research communications at McGraw Hill Construction. Green schools and classrooms can feature low-flow toilets run with water collected though a rain water collection system, French doors made of glass, rows of skylights, and other measures to conserve energy.

Green schools are gaining in popularity as states and districts look to build quickly, yet insure structures are long lasting. Sprout Space classrooms, for example, are built to last 40 years. These modular classrooms are transportable and feature innovative green technologies. While finances are still the biggest obstacle to better school buildings, green initiatives are helping to bridge the deficit.

While school buildings alone are not enough to warrant academic achievement, studies show they do impact learning significantly. In a survey of administrators in green schools, 91% said they believe that their buildings can and did improve students' health and well-being. Sixty-nine percent said green practices both improved their schools reputations and attractiveness.

Further, according to another recent report issued by the American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Green Building Council, "green schools" are not only better for students, teachers, and the environment, but are also benefiting the bottom line. At a time when districts everywhere are facing major budget shortfalls, incorporating green technology could be the wave of the future.

Following the news, former President Bill Clinton and the Center for Green Schools are urging the Government Accountability Office to examine America's schools and work to repair those that desperately need remodeling, many of which are in poverty stricken areas. "Nearly 20 years later, in a country where public education is meant to serve as the great equalizer for all of its children, we are still struggling to provide equal opportunity when it comes to the upkeep, maintenance and modernization of our schools and classrooms," Clinton wrote in his introduction to the report.

Clearly, while America's schools need to invest in modernizing facilities, the rise in online and blended learning will also make an impact on the future of school infrastructure. As traditional learning changes, we won't see as large of a demand for classic school buildings of the past.

Do you work in a green school? Is your school in need of repair?

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