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Private Schools

How dirty classrooms could be negatively affecting your students and teachers

Having a dark, dirty and poorly ventilated school does more than make for a bad first impression for potential students and parents. It could also drastically affect student achievement and teacher morale.

“Students and teachers need clean, roomy, well-ventilated and well-lit spaces for teaching and learning,” Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, told The Atlantic in an article titled “Reimagining the Modern Classroom.”

And studies back this up.

“With respect to students, school facilities affect health, behavior, engagement, learning and growth in achievement,” the Penn State Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis found. “Thus, researchers generally conclude that without adequate facilities and resources, it is extremely difficult to serve large numbers of children with complex needs.”

But U.S. school facilities received a D+ in the most recent Infrastructure Report Card, released by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2017. The report also found that 24 percent of public school buildings are in poor or fair condition.

Here are three ways poor learning environments could be negatively affecting your students:

1. Increased absenteeism and sickness

Ever heard of “sick building syndrome”? It’s real, and can affect school attendance.

Poor air quality can have a huge impact on absenteeism, especially on students with asthma. And poor ventilation allows “bacteria, viruses and allergens that contribute to childhood disease” to circulate, according to the Penn State paper.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Labs “noted an increase of 50 percent to 370 percent in the incidence of respiratory illness in spaces with low ventilation rates, as are commonly found in schools, compared to spaces meeting industry-accepted standards,” according to the 2016 State of Our Schools report from the 21st Century School Fund.

2. Reduced morale and productivity

Lighting plays a major role in both morale and productivity.

“Research has shown that not only does classroom lighting boost the morale of teachers and students, (but) appropriate amounts of natural lighting also reduces off-task behavior and improves test scores,” according to the Penn State paper.

Poor learning environments affect teachers as well as students.

Nineteen percent of teachers who left the profession cited “dissatisfaction with working conditions,” according to a Learning Policy Institute study. And teacher turnover is costly. It hurts student achievement and leads to shortages, and it can cost up to $21,000 to replace a new teacher in an urban school district, according to Education Week.

3. Lower test scores

In addition to productivity, poor lighting could directly affect test scores.

A study in California found that students scored as much as 25 percent higher on standardized tests in classrooms with more natural light. In an earlier study, students with “the most exposure to natural daylight progressed 20 percent faster in math and 26 percent faster in reading than students who were taught in environments with the least amount of natural light.”

Even classroom temperature can affect student achievement. The Penn State Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis reports that the ideal temperature range for learning in reading and math is 68-74 degrees.

Having an efficient and thorough custodial and preventive maintenance program makes it possible to create and maintain a clean, comfortable, pleasing atmosphere conducive to learning. Not only does it look nicer, but it can have a measurable positive effect on your students and teachers.


By providing a consistent level of professional service, we at SSC greatly contribute to the safety, health and well-being of students, faculty, parents and guests. Want to learn more about our custodial programs? Get in touch with us here.

4 ways facility services can bring savings

School finance is a hot topic on campuses and in school board meetings across the country as districts are being forced to make tough decisions about what to cut or how to spread funding to cover more programs.

As other spending priorities have encroached on state and local dollars, education funding has taken a big hit. In fact, according to a recent Education Week analysis looking at how much U.S. states spend on education, more than half received an F grade – and just seven states earned an A or A-. (You can find a breakdown of the state grades here.)

So, what can be done? The answer might be in your support services budget.

In nearly 50 years of serving educational institutions across the country, SSC has found several places schools can look to save money that can be put straight back into the classroom.

1. Benefit and retirement costs

Outsourcing is a scary word to some people, but contracting your support services can keep employees in their jobs while also helping schools save money – a win-win. You keep your valued employees, but we take the HR responsibilities off your plate by handling retirement, benefit and workers’ comp costs.

Outsourcing custodial services “helped save us significant dollars and eliminated all personnel headaches in that department,” said Darrell G. Floyd, a superintendent in Texas. “The end result is cleaner buildings for our students and teachers. That’s what we’re after.”

2. Labor

Eighty percent of a support services department’s budget is labor. But there are ways to trim that cost without letting go of employees.

Our programs leverage technology to make each employee more productive, and we use safety training to curb accidents, which results in schools that are cleaner, safer and more efficient – saving time and money.

3. Deferred maintenance

Putting off maintenance can cost you dearly in the long run. It’s estimated that every $1 not spent on preventive maintenance results in $4 in repairs and replacements down the road.

We use a computerized maintenance management system to monitor all of our systems and improve our work order efficiency and the PM process.

A robust preventive maintenance program helps schools extend the life expectancy of equipment and minimize untimely and expensive system failures.

4. Analytics

You know the phrase “work smarter, not harder?” It pays off. Compass Group’s analytics team, E15, helps companies and school districts across the country make data-based decisions about everything from energy usage to the right time to propose a bond referendum, all based on market research.

There’s no easy answer to school funding problems, but we can help you save on support services so you can worry about what matters most: educating your students.


Want to learn more about how we’ve helped schools save money on support services? Click here or get in touch with us here.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

3 simple ways to make your campus stand out

Think back to your first college visit, or the first time you interviewed for a job at a school. What was your first impression?

Did the school feel welcoming and bright, or a little shabby and disorganized?

Whatever your reaction – positive or negative – it likely hinged on the school’s grounds.

“People remember the first and last thing they see when they’re visiting any kind of campus,” said SSC Regional Vice President of Grounds George Bernardon.

Whether you’re fighting to attract and retain students or hoping to lure top teachers, grounds management goes a long way in how people perceive your school. We asked Bernardon to share three ways his team works to help schools make the right first impression.

1. Curb appeal matters

If you’ve ever been house hunting, you know the importance of curb appeal. People form their first impressions of a home long before they ever step inside.

You wouldn’t list your house without mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges and making the outside look nice and tidy, right? You should treat your school the same way – because it’s always on the market.

Prospective students, faculty and staff could be visiting your school for the first time any time of year, and they’re going to notice if the curb appeal is lacking. Most students decide if a college will stay on their list after just 10 minutes of being on campus, and 62 percent “reported basing their college decision on buildings and landscape,” according to a Washington State University survey.

With school choice becoming more widespread, it’s the appearance of a campus can have a large impact on a family’s decision.

“When parents go to enroll their child into school and the grounds look shabby, already they’ve formulated in their mind an opinion of how that school is run,” Bernardon said. “Immediately they start thinking, what is going on with this institution? Is the infrastructure crumbling around it? Just based on the curb appeal.”

Treat the outside of your school with the same pride you approach what goes on inside, and people will notice.

2. Little changes make a huge difference

Bernardon’s team features a mix of certified professionals in every aspect of grounds, athletic field and playground management. They do research, test the soil and study the irrigation system in order to create a custom plan that ensures a school’s landscape will be managed with sound horticultural and agronomic practices.

But when Bernardon first starts working with a school he focuses on doing the little things that make a huge – and immediate – difference (if you work in your yard at home, this list probably sounds familiar):

  • Weed plant beds
  • Add mulch
  • Start a consistent mow, edge and trim schedule for the grass

It sounds simple, but it makes a huge difference, especially when those little things are done in high-traffic areas like playgrounds, the parent pick-up line and the front entrance.

“If you do that, the campus appears to be manicured,” Bernardon said. “That elevates the appearance of the facility tenfold.”

After that, Bernardon and his team can dig deep and fix the big problems to put the grounds over the top.

3. Don’t forget the athletic fields

Think about all of the people filing into the stands for a Friday night football game or a Tuesday afternoon softball game. Their impression of your school has a lot to do with how green, lush and perfectly manicured those fields look.

And it’s not just your own students and parents you’re trying to impress, but also those from the visiting teams. For colleges, beautiful fields can help recruit athletes.

Visitors will form their first impressions based on the areas they visit the most. So even if that baseball field is tucked way back in the rear part of campus, a patchy outfield could color how people see the school.

“All schools now are fighting for the same students,” Bernardon said.

Give your school an edge by making the right first impression.


Want to learn more about how SSC’s Grounds Management program can transform the curb appeal of your school? Click here or get in touch with us here.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

Outsourcing helps schools save money without cutting jobs

Outsourcing. When you see that word, you probably think about jobs being shipped overseas, or longtime employees being cut to hire younger – and cheaper – workers.

But outsourcing doesn’t have to be a dirty word, and it can actually help schools and districts save money without laying off existing staff.

By bringing in a support services firm like SSC, schools can:

  • Keep the current, knowledgeable staff already in-house
  • Increase productivity
  • Stop worrying about workers’ compensation, skyrocketing fringe costs, and free up human resources to focus on other responsibilities
  • Save money – 15-20 percent – which can then go to other critical needs, like arts programs and teacher pay
  • Most importantly, improve the look of your schools and make your district more competitive in recruitment and retention

How?

We have developed a detailed transition plan honed through the successful onboarding of hundreds of thousands of associates over many years. This experience has taught us that honest, open, continuous communication is the key to taking employees from a place of fear and resistance to embracing the positive new reality our solutions bring and delivering a new, higher level of performance.

SSC leverages its expertise and resources to achieve significantly higher productivity levels using technology, training and management resources that are beyond the reach of in-house operations.

Eighty percent of a support service’s department budget is labor. Higher productivity means fewer workers – and a lower cost – but an increased quality in facilities management.

But wait, you’re thinking, you said we could save money without cutting a bunch of jobs.

You’re right. That’s where attrition comes in.

Gradual employee transition happens naturally, at a rate around 10 percent annually. As worker productivity increases, vacant positions can be eliminated while maintaining a high standard of work. Staffing levels go down without forcing employees out of their jobs and without breaking promises with the school community.

In this structure, cost-savings are attained in a way that’s sustainable and respectful of existing employees, and that maintains good morale and a spirit of teamwork.

When Lake Travis Independent School District in Texas transitioned custodial services to SSC in 2015, 92 percent of staff members also decided to make the transition, and the district was able to save 18 percent of its prior year’s custodial budget.

“The positive feedback has been overwhelming,” said Johnny W. Hill, assistant superintendent for business, financial and auxiliary services at Lake Travis ISD.

“In my opinion, the three main factors that set SSC apart from the rest of the crowd (are) their level of commitment to employees during the transition period, their commitment to providing the highest level of services to the educational entity and, finally, their commitment to providing a cost-effective solution to their clients.”


Want to learn more? Get in touch with us to see if outsourcing support services makes sense for your facilities.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the SSC Monthly newsletter. Get news about the latest trends in education and support services, plus tips from our knowledgeable and experienced staff about how to make your facilities run smoothly — and save money.

5 strategies for keeping your school flu-free

This flu season has been a doozy – one of the worst in the past decade – and the virus has caused schools to close in at least 12 states.

Even for schools that don’t close, the flu can be disruptive, with students coughing and sniffling in class, or falling behind while home sick.

Between 5 and 20 percent of people in the United States get the flu each fall and winter, according to the National Institutes of Health. Moreover, the flu accounted for 39 percent of illness episodes and led to more than 1,075 missed school days over three flu seasons according to a study of more than 1,000 school-aged children published earlier this year in the Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses journal.

Those missed school days can have a huge effect on student outcomes – and the budget.

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How SSC helped Texas A&M weather Hurricane Harvey

In late summer 2017, the areas surrounding Texas A&M saw considerable winds and rain from Hurricane Harvey. The weather event caused massive devastation, leaving in its path leveled homes, businesses, schools, nursing homes, churches and stores, and injuring or killing many. In situations such as this, our SSC team knows it is vital to be prepared, responsive and proactive to ensure the safety of everyone in our communities and get our clients up and running again as soon as possible.

Rather than waiting to see what Harvey would leave behind, our team performed a significant amount of pre-storm work. The team laid out sandbags in problematic areas and prepared the campus for the predicted rainfall. Sump pumps were checked to ensure each was in good working order.

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