How Nice Should Your Kid’s School Be? Maryland’s Workgroup Reports Back.

A workgroup established by the General Assembly’s 21st Century School Facilities Act releases findings and recommendations on educational specifications.

A statewide workgroup emphasizes that local school systems should lead the design of school facilities.

Every local school system seeks the best public facilities for K-12 educational programs. Educational specifications, or “Ed Specs” as they are commonly called, provide guidance on standards for educational facilities statewide. Updates to these standards were the focus of a work group created by the General Assembly in the 21st Century School Facilities Act, passed in 2018. The final report of the group could become the source of future legislative or administrative changes to how the state influences school design.

As described in the report, Ed Specs have an influential role on school design:

Ed Specs lay out a detailed project plan, with guidance on everything from the size of a school and its classrooms to lighting, acoustics, and temperature control; essentially, whatever is necessary to create comfortable and productive space for teaching and learning.

Equally important, Ed Specs establish a framework for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and the State to set realistic funding targets.

The findings of the report emphasize local flexibility to design the facilities that fit their local school system needs, and reducing longterm facility maintenance costs. To answer the question posed by the title of the post, this workgroup would defer to local school systems, not the State, as the lead in decisions regarding school design and size.

Findings of the workgroup include:

  • Local school systems misinterpret Maryland State Department of Education “guidance” as requirements
  • The State Department of Education has been overly restrictive in state funding, including limits of funding beyond certain square footage and for certain purposes. (for information on what has already been done to increase flexibility for state funding, see this post)
  • The State Department of Planning may be able to improve enrollment estimates to contribute to school facility planning.
  • Legislation that might be beneficial to statewide facilities issues includes:
    • Creating a funding bonus or reward to local school systems for achieving a level of maintenance effectiveness.
    • Determining a process and agency to address issues and opportunities to increase utilization of underutilized space within the statewide school facilities portfolio.
    • Requiring that a certain percentage of funding or a new funding source be dedicated to and spent on routine facilities maintenance and operations.

The final report also recommended that the Workgroup on the Assessment & Funding of School Facilities, which will hold its first meeting Thursday, June 20, 2019, pick up several topics for discussion, including:

  • Creating incentives that encourage local school systems to analyze and plan/design for total cost of ownership for new, replacement, and fully renovated school facilities based on the costs of building, operating, and maintaining facilities over the full life of a project.
  • Creating and maintaining Life Cycle Cost Analysis comparable standards and measures.
  • Implementing post-occupancy evaluations utilizing a standard template.
  • Implementing the National Council on School Facilities’ “Definitions of Key Facilities Data Elements” for budgets and expenditures that make up the total cost of ownership and track the cost of ownership.
  • Exploring the implementation of a standard maintenance management system to collect data on local school systems’ facility operations, maintenance, and capital-renewal activities.
  • Exploring the implementation of real-time utilities metering for each facility.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner will represent Maryland counties on the Workgroup on the Assessment & Funding of School Facilities.

For more information, read  The Final Report of Workgroup on Educational Development Specifications.

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