Skimping on School Buildings is Creating a Crisis

The aging school buildings of Arizona’s Glendale Elementary School District were no match for the late summer monsoons of 2016. With foundations made brittle after years of prolonged water damage, flooding seeped in. A structural engineer feared that walls would give way.

School leaders scrambled to find new spaces for nearly 1,500 students until outside contractors could remediate waterlogged walls and floors and reinforce foundations in two buildings. Some students were shuttled to another school in the district; others were sent to a neighboring town.

Superintendent Cindy Segotta-Jones didn’t want to make the students relocate. But with aging buildings desperately needing repair after years of underfunding, she had no choice. “You can’t tell me that it doesn’t impact their learning when they’re in a different environment,” she said. “These disruptions are not fair to children.”

America’s schools, many built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, are due for a major overhaul after decades of inadequate funding made worse by the 2008 recession. These old buildings are only getting older — in Glendale, where some schools date to the 1940s, drainage problems make them vulnerable during the rainy season and aging air conditioners frequently conk out as temperatures soar to 115 degrees.

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5 thoughts on “Skimping on School Buildings is Creating a Crisis

  1. Very good, but also depressing. I think it’s not just schools, but infrastructure as a whole. At least that was on my mind because the bus fell through a hole in the street here this week.


  2. What kills me about failure to invest in infrastructure generally is that we are not a poorer country than we were in the first two thirds of the twentieth century. Why we can’t pay for public goods anymore is mystifying.


    1. After the Baby Boomer cohort finishes using something, it gets dropped. Even the roads, now that they’re becoming too old to drive.


  3. I saw this on Laura’s twitter:

    “Last school year’s graduating senior class had 92 students, but the incoming kindergarten class totaled 168 students. The district has a total of 1,800 students, 200 of them in preschool and kindergarten, this school year.”

    That is insanely expensive infrastructure. They want to spend an average of nearly $34k per kid in the district for their repairs.


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