Enrollment, funding, supply chain issues throw wrench into school construction projects
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Enrollment, funding, supply chain issues throw wrench into school construction projects


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The pandemic has left much of the world in disarray, and school building improvement plans have been no exception. Districts around the country are finding themselves forced to reconsider and revise their plans due to a variety of challenges, including disruptions to the supply chain, labor shortages, funding issues, and changing enrollment patterns.

Supply chain issues have been a major obstacle for many districts. For example, the Union City Board of Education in New Jersey ordered two rooftop air conditioning units in May 2022, but the units were only delivered 40 and 63 weeks later. This delay ran into the district’s federal obligation deadlines that are associated with funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.

Labor shortages are also a major issue. Districts are having to increase wages for contractors, and the costs are getting transferred to districts as well. Therefore, districts are re-evaluating how feasible their larger projects are in light of increased costs and expiring ESSER funds.

Enrollment patterns also play a role in school building improvement plans. Nationwide, public school enrollments have declined since the start of the pandemic, and some districts are looking into consolidation and closures of certain schools as a result. Enrollment is also tied to revenue decreases for many districts, and it can affect a district’s decision to pursue larger projects.

However, the impact of these challenges is not only on a district’s long-term portfolio, but also on its relationships with their local communities. For example, disappointed communities may interpret a district’s failure to deliver on larger projects as a lack of desire. Smaller projects like window replacements can help build trust within communities, and district boards should remain transparent with the community on how, why, and where they are spending their funds.

School building improvement plans are an ever-changing landscape, but this doesn’t necessarily mean districts should give up on their projects. Although districts may need to enter new phases that ensure financial feasibility in light of the pandemic, they should still keep an eye on the bigger picture to make sure their promises are kept and relationships with the community remain intact

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