Many school buildings are more outdated than their computers

The average age of schools in higher poverty neighborhoods is 55 years, compared to 48 in more affluent communities.

We’re not going to string you along with a lot of build-up here (pun intended): The average age of a school in the U.S. is nearly 50 and more than a third of the buildings were built before 1970, well before most students began writing primitive programs on the first wave of personal computers.

Moreover, some 31% of schools are currently using at least one portable building while construction or renovations are underway this academic year at one-fifth of all public schools, according to the latest School Pulse Panel survey data released this week by the National Center for Education Statistics.

“School facilities provide a setting for learning and affect the health and comfort of the school’s students and staff,”  the Center’s commissioner, Peggy G. Carr, said in a news release.

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The survey then digs deeper into the physical climate of schools and whether conditions in some districts should raise equity concerns. The average age of schools in higher poverty neighborhoods, for example, is 55 years, compared to 48 in more affluent communities.

The numbers are just as tilted when comparing schools where students of color are the large majority (54 years) to buildings where these children represent less than 25% of the population (48 years).

There also are disparities among the resources within schools. The survey found that 89% of schools have dedicated library space but that number fell to 81% in high-poverty neighborhoods and to 80% in districts where students of color are a large majority. As for STEM labs, 64% of more affluent schools have such facilities while only 58% of high-poverty schools provide them.

Finally, when it comes to air quality, nearly four in 10 schools have a staff member who is responsible for monitoring indoor air quality and handling issues and complaints. Vehicle loading and unloading at six in 10 schools takes place at least 25 feet from doors, windows other air intakes. But only 18% of schools have instituted anti-idling measures, such as signs or monitoring during pick-up and drop-off times, the survey found.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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