Effective learning goes beyond ensuring that you have great teachers. Empowering them with educational tools and the right learning environment plays a critical role in helping students thrive. Couple this with the ways that education has changed1 over the past few years, and it’s clear that school facilities will need to continue to evolve to meet students’ needs.
The once-in-a-generation funding provided through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) comes with a responsibility for leaders to spend it wisely. They are responsible for using the funding in a timely manner and with maximum impact to optimize student success, now and into the future.
Here are three ways that ESSER funding can help “future-proof” your building:
1. Improve your learning environment:
In the wake of pandemic-related building closures and online learning challenges, many students are struggling with learning loss2. After the first two years of the pandemic, for example, the average K-12 student in the United States has fallen five months behind in math and four months behind in reading,3
Research has shown that the right learning environment can positively impact student performance. The EPA reports4 that good physical conditions within the academic environment can improve test results and teacher retention rates and reduce absenteeism.
Another research initiative featured in Building and Environment, demonstrated that reducing indoor space temperature by 10 degrees C, from 30° C to 20° C, is expected to increase performance of tasks relevant for learning by 20 percent5. The researchers found that cumulative heat exposure decreases the productivity of instructional time. Without school air conditioning, a 1-degree hotter school year reduced that year’s learning by 1 percent.6
Working with an energy service provider can help you take a holistic approach to assessing your buildings’ IEQ, including indoor air quality (IAQ), to determine how you can best optimize your indoor spaces for teaching and learning.
2. Maximize efficiency with enhanced building control
Consider enhancing building control as part of your facility optimization process. In addition to state-of-the-art building automation7 systems potentially reducing energy consumption by up to 40 percent, incorporating enhanced building controls can also help you remain agile for a changing future. Controls can help you right-size for variation in annual enrollment, manage flexible learning spaces8 and maximize facility-space-use effectiveness for extracurricular events
In addition, incorporating the data derived from your building automation systems into the student education process will increase your return on investment in folds. Trane, for example, offers opportunities for you to convert your facilities into Virtual Living Learning Labs (VL3) that allow students to apply data analytics and critical thinking skills that will better position them for future success.
3. Help ensure you can combat the hot weather
“Hottest summer on record” has become a far-too-common headline for readers nationwide. According to Education Week9, estimates suggest that between one-third and one-half of U.S. classrooms lack adequate air conditioning or don’t have any at all.
Research shows that classrooms that are too hot can negatively impact learning. A 2018 study by Park and team10 found that students scored lower on their PSAT tests following a hotter school year. The heat stress impact proved three times higher for Black and Hispanic students and two times higher for the lowest income zip codes when compared to the highest.11
Make sure your building offers the infrastructure needed to create a comfortable environment to respond to these changes and support the community. ESSER funding can be used to modernize ventilation systems in schools, including installing or upgrading air conditioning units
In addition to ESSER funding, there are number of other financial vehicles that could be used to help improve student environment and ensure equitable distribution of improvements for all students across the district.
Learn how Trane can help you “future-proof” your district to help meet the needs of today’s academic environment – and prepare for those of the future.