The Importance of School Maintenance and How to Get It Right
Schools require extensive maintenance and care to keep them running smoothly. At any given school, there’s likely a long list of maintenance and repair tasks on your schedule and countless more just waiting in the wings. Even if the school is perfectly cared for, it takes work to keep it that way. Those tasks might include anything from replacing A/C filters to repairing broken floor tiles or servicing a boiler.
School maintenance is more than just building upkeep and protecting investments, though those are important. It’s about providing students with a healthy environment to bolster their educational opportunities and support their development. Read on to find out the true significance of school maintenance.
What is school maintenance?
A good school maintenance plan uses routine and planned maintenance to ensure the school’s grounds, buildings, and all associated equipment are functional and safe. Depending on the size and scope of the school facility, the maintenance might also include the management of contracts and relationships with outside vendors, accordance with health and safety standards, emergency equipment and protocols, security, vehicle maintenance, and more.
Why is school maintenance important?
School maintenance is vital for two key reasons: it protects school investments and improves the student experience.
School maintenance protects investments
School maintenance protects the district’s investment and allows school facility managers to apply their limited funds wisely, which better benefits the students. If an expensive boiler is poorly maintained and, as a result, needs to be replaced years before the expected lifespan, that’s a substantial, avoidable expense that could have been allotted to something else, like new Chromebooks, or a new teacher for the math department.
Consistent school maintenance can improve student learning
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both encourage a healthy physical environment to promote learning in a school environment. This applies to the school building and grounds, exposure to any biological or chemical agents, and other physical conditions, like temperature, sound, and lighting.
This data tells us that building conditions truly do matter when it comes to student attendance and performance. By maintaining healthy indoor air quality, providing temperate classrooms, and staying on top of other planned maintenance tasks, you can have a direct and positive impact on your students.
How to create a school maintenance plan
To find out exactly which maintenance tasks should be included in your plan, the best thing to do is to take stock of all equipment, buildings, and grounds. Once you have a running list of assets, you can determine the type of care required.
To help you get started, here’s a list of school maintenance areas your plan should touch on:
1. Facility management
The general maintenance of the school building and grounds is the most obvious component of school maintenance, and arguably the most important. Your oversight of these components will directly impact the day-to-day condition of your school. For example, the effectiveness of your HVAC system will determine the comfort of your classrooms. The quality of your floor repair this spring will impact the safety of your outdoor walkways in winter. Your water heater replacement will improve safe food preparation in the kitchens. The list goes on.
School facility management should encompass the following:
- Electrical systems
- Energy usage
2. Inventory management
In the spirit of preparedness, keeping a well-stocked inventory is essential if you want to keep the lights on at your school—literally. Stocking everyday essentials like pencils, lightbulbs, paper, and batteries is straightforward, but it might also be beneficial to consider stocking extra forms of equipment or technology. Depending on your budget, projected equipment lifespans, and asset uses, determine your ideal inventory levels and maintain them rigorously with a structured school inventory management system.
3. Health & safety regulations
Appropriate health and safety maintenance in a school district should follow both federal and state laws. These regulations will apply to safe water care, air quality and ventilation, protections against asbestos exposure, nutritional requirements for school lunches and snacks, proper waste disposal, COVID exposure protocol, and more. Be sure your school’s plan follows proper repair, testing, replacements, and other maintenance tasks to align with each safety requirement.
4. Security & access controls
School access should be constructed to ensure the security of staff and students, but maintaining tight access can be complicated. U.S. school security systems often include digital access locks, security cameras, physical barriers, emergency lighting, alarm systems, and sometimes security officers. Once you’ve established security protocol, make sure all staff and students are informed, and safeguard that system with regular testing and careful maintenance.
5. Emergency planning
In the event of an earthquake, fire, flood, or another emergency, your school facility must be equipped, and your students and staff should be prepared. In terms of maintenance, facility caretakers should check fire alarms, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, and other applicable supplies and equipment. Drills should also be executed regularly, and written protocols should be easily accessible in each classroom or common area.
Who performs school maintenance?
There are several different roles involved in the management and maintenance of a school or district. With frequent communication and clear expectations, these roles can work together to create and fulfill an effective school maintenance plan.
From the top down, facility directors or higher management positions look at the big picture. These roles will often be responsible for several schools within a district.
When it comes to school maintenance, these roles will likely focus on the budget, equipment lifespans, and long-term planning for the school’s expenditures and improvements.
Facility managers & supervisors
Facility managers have a more direct role in overseeing the maintenance at a school facility, and will likely be the ones to create and implement the maintenance plan. These roles will either supervise maintenance workers directly, or will oversee the managers who do. They will work closely with the directors or higher management teams to solve inefficiencies and plan for improvements.
The “boots on the ground,” typically titled maintenance technicians, or maintenance workers, are the folks actually getting their hands dirty and executing the carefully-laid maintenance plans. They respond to work orders, perform preventive maintenance tasks, carry out repairs, and generally care for the facilities, buildings, and grounds.
Types of school maintenance tasks
Apart from the nature of the maintenance tasks themselves, there are also different conditions in which those tasks may be requested. In any school, facility managers should anticipate a variety of planned and reactive maintenance tasks, as outlined below:
- Emergency maintenance tasks occur when something breaks or fails and requires immediate attention in response to that failure. For example, the boiler fails on a cold winter school day.
- Preventive maintenance tasks are performed regularly to preserve facilities and assets and avoid failures and breakdowns. An example of preventive maintenance would be changing the air conditioning filters every three months.
- Predictive maintenance works proactively by analyzing equipment performance, usage, and age to determine estimated lifespans and identify potential maintenance needs. Typically, predictive maintenance software will perform this analysis and alert team members when services are required to prevent breakdowns or initiate replacements.
By understanding the different types of maintenance tasks heading your way, you can better anticipate the needs of your school in the future. Shifting away from emergency maintenance (as much as is reasonable) and moving toward preventive and predictive maintenance is always ideal.
Streamline your school maintenance plan with facilities management software
There are several ways to create and enforce a maintenance plan, including traditional pen-and-paper scheduling, spreadsheet tracking, or email updates. But the increasingly popular standard in school maintenance management is the use of facilities management software.
Using facilities management software does more than just organize your maintenance schedule; it can help you streamline processes, increase asset productivity, and improve student learning.
FMX allows you to manage maintenance requests and create preventive maintenance schedules like inspections, filter changes, and more. Our equipment and asset management software also enables you to view maintenance history and user manuals, not to mention location tracking and QR tagging.
Interested in learning more about FMX’s facility management software for schools? We’re here to help. Book a demo today!
Dana is the Manager of Brand and Content at FMX.
When Dana isn't curating facilities and maintenance content or determining FMX's content strategy, you can find her camping with her family, trying new wineries or traveling!