When it comes to the relationship between school facilities and academic achievement, study after study seems to confirm what we already know: that the quality and condition of the physical space has an effect on students’ motivation and performance. Simply put, it is difficult to concentrate on learning while immersed in an environment that is too hot or too cold, has poor air quality that triggers asthma and other respiratory issues, is too cramped or noisy, is prone to rodent or insect infestations, or that is set up with outdated, ill-functioning equipment. If we are serious about ensuring that every child has a chance to succeed in school, then adequate funding for physical facilities should be an important part of the community conversation.
Shelby County Schools currently has building stock of which almost 80 percent is at least 40 years old, with many facilities still furnished with their original equipment. In 2014, a commissioned report found $476 million in deferred maintenance across the district, and that total has since climbed to more than $500 million. Historically, there have been deep disparities in the quality of the facilities that students in Shelby County attend. Many of those disparities still exist today, which makes facilities maintenance another factor in attaining educational equity – particularly when school closures or consolidations are often methods of addressing deferred maintenance.
Every student deserves a school environment that is safe, comfortable, and conducive to learning – one that is fully equipped to facilitate the teaching modes and technology needs of the twenty-first century. This year, SCS will spend a record-setting $90.2 million on construction and maintenance projects, but that is still a drop in the bucket. To truly remedy historic inequities and have a lasting positive effect on student attendance and achievement, the district needs a comprehensive and equitable facilities maintenance plan, along with the funds to implement it.
Let’s make it happen. Sign our petition today and add your support for modern, high-quality school facilities that enhance learning for all of our community’s children.