Survey finds many schools need repairs

Associated Press
This Thursday, July 5, 2012 photo shows the exterior of the 88 year-old Charles E. Gorton High School in Yonkers, N.Y.  The Yonkers school district is looking for investors to pay for a $1.7 billion overhaul of dozens of schools, including Gorton, built in 1924 and 43% over-enrolled, according to school district officials.  To replace the building would cost $128 million and to overhaul it with repairs would cost $428 million, according to John Carr, who heads up the Yonkers Public Schools Facilities division. Across the country, innovative deals are now being discussed that would put essential pieces of public infrastructure in the hands of global investment firms, the latest effort to cope with a lingering fiscal crisis that has left some communities unable to pay for their needs. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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This 2012 photo shows the exterior of the Charles E. Gorton High School in Yonkers, N.Y., built in 1924.

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than half the nation's public schools need to be repaired, renovated or modernized, a survey released Thursday found.

Getting these schools in good condition would cost about $197 billion, the National Center for Education Statistics said. That's $4.5 million per school, on average.

The survey found that on average main school buildings were 44 years old. Schools that underwent a major renovation had the work done on average 12 years ago. Building replacements or additions were on average 16 years old.

There were signs of upgrades, however, in some schools. Seventeen percent of public schools had major repairs, renovations or modernization work underway, while nearly 40 percent had these types of improvements planned in the next two years.

School construction projects are funded in a variety of ways, depending on the state and locality. Many school districts have had to delay maintenance and construction projects because of slashed budgets during tough economic times. Even as states' revenues are rebounding, officials from the National School Boards Association said many states are still focused on other priorities.

Reggie Felton, interim associate executive director at the National School Boards Association, said there's a strong desire to provide modern facilities that support learning and are environmentally friendly even with limited resources. He said districts are looking for innovative ways to save money for these types of projects such as by sharing libraries or athletic fields.

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