A few months ago, I was honored to accept the role of Executive Director for the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS). After fully (and finally) settling in, I am grateful to announce that the Board unanimously approved my vision to embark on a bold evolution for CHPS. Here are some of the facts driving our need to double down on what is working, listen to what isn’t, and work collaboratively to develop new programs and solutions to ensure every student has an ideal learning environment:
- One out of six Americans spends their day in one of our roughly 100k public school buildings, which has been given a near failing ( D+) rating nationally
- As a profession, miners have the highest prevalence of asthma in the U.S. The second highest is teachers.
- Children miss 14 million schools days a year due to asthma, contributing to $3 billion in losses due to missed work and school days
- Over half of public school districts need to replace or update multiple building systems with HVAC, lighting, and roofing being the most common needs
- The funding gap for school facilities continues to increase and is now at $85 billion per year, which is more than the annual GDP of 10 U.S. States.
- Schools and educational facilities are the third largest energy consumer among commercial buildings, spending more than $12.5 billion a year on energy
- We have beautiful examples of some of the world's most inspirational and best learning environments.
- We have funding mechanisms in which school districts can improve or replace their building systems with no up-front capital costs.
- We can design Net Zero Energy schools at or below conventional school budgets while providing school districts substantial operational savings.
- We have numerous case studies and white papers documenting how to improve our schools, their operational and human-centric benefits, and how to do so cost-effectively
- We know the physical space of a school accounts for 16% of a student’s progress, which means moving a student from least effective to most effective space is the equivalent of adding the learnings from 2/3s of an additional school year.
- We know students learn the best and are their healthiest with clean air, proper lighting, appropriate acoustics, views of nature, and good thermal comfort.
- We know teachers are less likely to get sick, more likely to stay at a school, and are happier and better at their job in well designed high performance schools.
So what does this all mean? It means there is a disconnect between what we know is best for students, what we know is possible for our schools, and what is actually being done nationally. It means there is a historic inequity and underinvestment in the infrastructure of our nation's schools.
As the wealthiest country in the world, we must do more. While there are many great existing non-profits and programs working to improve our schools, we collectively need to do more.
As one of those organizations, CHPS (which is celebrating it 20th years of developing the only school-specific building criteria focusing on student and staff performance, occupant health, and a sustainable built environment), needs to do more.
Now is the time to make improving our public school infrastructure a priority, and I am very grateful and excited for this opportunity to help with this mission.
If you have any ideas, insights, or experience on what non-profits can do for our schools (or CHPS specifically), I would love to talk, particularly if you are interested in developing solutions as a partner, content contributor, or technical expert, or a sponsor.
- Craig Schiller, CHPS Executive Director