A new report reveals that U.S. school infrastructure is in dire need of repair.
More than half of America’s public school districts have facilities in need of significant repair, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) national survey.
“About half (an estimated 54 percent) of public school districts need to update or replace multiple building systems or features in their schools,” the report states. Additionally, the GAO estimates that 41% of U.S. school districts will need to update their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) “in at least half of their schools.”
Alarmingly, the HVAC system problems that the GAO survey uncovered could lead to poor indoor air quality and mold if school districts don’t act soon.
Such ventilation challenges and other structural problems are bad enough, but seem especially critical given the current coronavirus pandemic. But now, as school districts contemplate how to safely return students to their classrooms, the dilapidation that is pervasive nationwide will almost surely complicate school plans even further.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, outdated and hazardous school buildings were undermining the quality of public education and putting students and educators at risk. Now, the pandemic is exacerbating the consequences of our failure to make necessary investments in school infrastructure,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.
Particularly significant in the findings of the GAO report is that high-poverty school districts may be disproportionately impacted by budget shortfalls in the wake of the pandemic, with little hope of local funding for school infrastructure projects.
While the safety of America’s schools has obvious implications for our nation’s youth, so too does it for the rest of the population. Schools play a critical role in not only for students, but also for the community at large as they frequently serve as polling locations and emergency shelters.
As desperate as the situation seems for schools nationwide – and indeed nearly every component of the country’s infrastructure – there is an answer.
“This report offers clear, irrefutable evidence that we must launch an urgent, nationwide effort to rebuild America’s schools,” Scott said. “As workers face record unemployment, there is no better time for a historic investment in school infrastructure that will make classrooms safer and get millions of people back to work.”
Robust infrastructure investment would not only ensure public safety, but also spark the creation of millions of jobs in a time of tremendous economic pressure, as Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul noted earlier this week.
America’s children and educators deserve schools that are safe, and America’s workers are ready to build them.