Tackling learning loss that has resulted from the pandemic is today’s most pressing education policy concern. Critical remedies like intensive tutoring, added instructional time and early warning indicators have gotten a lot of attention. But there is another solution that is ripe for action, one that undergirds all other efforts to address learning loss: upgrading school buildings.

The state of school facilities in underserved communities is, in a word, poor. A Government Accountability Office report from last year found that half of schools nationwide need to repair or replace multiple major systems, such as heating, cooling, or plumbing, and 41 percent needed updates to HVAC systems. In Detroit, it would take $500 million to bring all schools into good condition. In 2018, Baltimore shuttered schools due to inadequate heating during an extremely cold winter. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives school infrastructure in America a D-plus.

If broken school buildings were just an inconvenience or a matter of aesthetics, their condition wouldn’t be of urgent concern. But the buildings in which students learn have a big impact on their thinking and academic performance. A 2019 synthesis of 250 studies, spanning 30 years, by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that environmental issues in school buildings, from mold to poor ventilation to noise, lighting, and more, can adversely impact learning. “Improving the school building may well be the most overlooked means of improving student health, safety, and academic performance,” the authors concluded.

Read the full article about repairing school infrastructure by Mildred Otero at The 74.