Right now, the majority of districts and schools are focused on planning for the reopening of school — priorities, rightly so, are on finding ways to accelerate learning for students; addressing the social and emotional needs of students, teachers, and staff; and ensuring that schools can be functioning in-person in as normal a manner possible. While this is all-consuming work, districts should not miss the opportunity to leverage federal funds to make facility improvements that could positively impact student achievement.
A recent report by FutureEd highlights using Covid relief funds to upgrade ventilation and cites research that ventilation systems have a significant impact on student achievement.1 While federal guidance cautions against using Covid relief funds for extensive construction projects, the American Rescue Plan and CDC guidance encourage the upgrading of ventilation. While districts will need to move quickly, upgrading ventilation with federal funds is a good opportunity that can benefit students. Some interesting evidence cited in the FutureEd report include:
- Evidence that cumulative heat exposure inhibits cognitive development, and that school air conditioning can mitigate this effect. Without air conditioning, each 1-degree Fahrenheit increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by one percent. Hotter school days were linked to lower results on the PSAT, an impact that was two to three times larger among students living in communities with concentrated poverty.2
- Good ventilation can contribute to better attendance. A study of 150 classrooms in 28 California schools for two years found that updating classroom ventilation systems to state standards could bring a 3.4% decline in illness-related student absences.3
And, of course, as we all now well understand, improved ventilation can help prevent the spread of the airborne COVID virus and can help keep schools open during this pandemic and future pandemics. And improved HVAC can have enduring benefits by creating additional opportunities for summer learning.
DMGroup is excited about opportunities like this that allow federal funds to be leveraged for enduring impact. Because Covid relief funds must be obligated by September 2024 and because capital projects must receive approval from state and federal authorities, it is important that districts move quickly on this opportunity, review and possibly revise their capital spending needs, and possibly review or revise their strategic plans.
Contact us if you want to revise your strategic plan and/or review/revise your capital spending program and your budget.
Learn more about DMGroup’s approach to strategic planning.