What the American Rescue Plan Means for School Facilities Departments


We’ve read the American Rescue Plan and Found Lots of Opportunities for You to Invest in Your School’s Facilities Program

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act provides a whopping $123 billion in flexible funds for school districts across the United States to be spent over the next three school years. This is the largest federal investment in K-12 education in U.S. history. With the ARP’s focus on indoor air quality and school building health, the moment to make schools safer and healthier for all students has finally arrived. For those in facilities management at K-12 school districts facing new COVID-19-related protocols, hiring challenges and increased scrutiny from the public, this money can make a huge difference. We dove into the ARP to find some of the big takeaways that facility managers at K-12 schools will find helpful for investing in their facilities programs.

 

The focus of the ARP is on emergency preparedness and continuity of services.

The ARP is intended to get students back into classrooms safely, avoiding disruptions to the continuity of education that we saw in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to 80% of the money in the plan can be used to purchase anything a facilities program is doing that is focused on emergency preparedness and ensuring the continuity of services. Because healthier, cleaner schools are better prepared for emergencies, facility investments will fall under the funding provided by this plan.  

 

We will be digging even deeper into the American Rescue Plan in an upcoming webinar on July 28 at noon EST/11 CT.

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The funding is flexible.

¢›There is a lot a school can do with this funding. The law is specific yet flexible. Because all school districts are unique, the ARP was designed in a way that would allow school districts in all 50 states to invest in what fits their unique needs. For example, indoor air quality needs for a school in Florida will be very different than a school in Maine. Indoor air quality and cleaning priorities vary greatly depending on location, population, size, age of building, humidity levels and more. There were very few items that make schools healthier that could not be used with this money.

 

Sustainability is aligned with health.

The ARP funding is a great way to get health and sustainability priorities up and running. Health and sustainability is aligned with the larger goal of the rescue plan. Safe re-entry, continuity of services and emergency preparedness have many overlaps with sustainability goals. If a school has been considering revamping its facilities program to be healthier and more sustainable, this funding provides the perfect opportunity to start.

 

Ventilation is a top priority.

Once we learned that COVID-19 was an airborne virus, continuity of service depended on adequate ventilation. So many school buildings in this country suffer from inadequate ventilation. This funding means there is no excuse to have a broken, out of date, or poorly serviced ventilation system. We believe that ventilation and indoor air quality (IAQ) will be top-of-mind for all school facility managers now and into the future. We encourage your school to invest in HEPA filters, upgrade HVAC systems and find ways to push outdoor air into classrooms and schools. This will provide immediate benefits in that it keeps schools safer from COVID-19. But better ventilation and improved IAQ have untold benefits that will last longer than a school year. Good ventilation and healthy indoor air mean students learn and perform better. It means there’s less carbon monoxide and contaminants in the air students and staff are breathing while they are in school.  

 

Our new standard can help you maximize ARP impact.

We drafted the first national standard for healthy indoor air quality at schools to align with this unique funding opportunity. The draft standard is designed to emphasize measures that make a significant impact in health and sustainability without major capital investments. The standard is available for public comment here, and you can also apply to be an adopter to help shape this standard and gain pilot access to resources. Even though it’s federal money, schools get it through the state. The ARP was made available by the fed government, but it’s being administered through the states. Every state has a different approach to distributing these funds and the requirements needed to track how the money is spent. Each district will need to check with local requirements through their state department of education.

 

Even though it’s federal money, schools get it through the state.

The ARP was made available by the federal government, but it’s being administered through the states. Every state has a different approach to distributing these funds and the requirements needed to track how the money is spent. Each district will need to check with local requirements through their state department of education.

 

Learn from the leaders.

We polled our Healthy Green Schools & Colleges Committee members to see how they had spent past rescue money and intend to spend money from the ARP to help prepare their schools for emergencies and provide continuity of service. Salt Lake City School District in Utah was able to buy 300 new backpack vacuums to help promote long term IAQ goals at the school. Another member of our committee intends to use the money from the American Rescue Plan to upgrade HVAC systems nearing the end of their life cycles at 47 buildings across the district. We heard from facility managers investing in on-site generation cleaning equipment to promote efficient cleaning and improve indoor air quality and another facility manager was able to purchase smaller floor cleaning equipment to get into and out of smaller spaces more efficiently. The American Rescue Plan reflects a level of investment in schools we have not seen before. The focus on providing healthier environments for students and staff means that this is the time to make the right investments in your school that promote health and safety.  

 

How Funds from the American Rescue Plan
Can Be Used to Improve Your Facilities– Program


Wednesday, July 28 12:00 PM EST/11:00 AM CT/9:00 AM PST
 

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