Need for Replacement Schools for 50+ Year-Old Facilities:

The Demographics of Demand

Many Texas districts are seeing the need to close or repurpose schools – especially as budgets get tighter. These facilities, particularly in mature districts, are often either:

  • Underutilized;
  • Under-performing;
  • Too small to provide programs cost-effectively; or
  • Too old to be renovated properly.

A 2005 survey undertaken by the Bush School at Texas A&M University showed that 15% of all Texas schools had already exceeded their life expectancies of 50 years (CEFPI Winter Bulletin (Jan., 2012) – representing 1,476 general purpose school buildings. This is a conservative estimate, in that a school’s age in this study could be based on the date of the last major renovation – suggesting that the percent of needed replacements may actually be much higher.

However, this data is deceiving, in that many of these older schools are in locations where the student population is quite low and will not be returning. Therefore, a sizeable subset of these schools are in need of closure, instead of major renovation or replacement. In many urban centers, student population is declining for various reasons: (1) land use surrounding these older schools has become heavily industrial or commercial, leaving an attendance zone that has little residential land use remaining; and (2) a large proportion of young families have preferred relocation to suburban locations and out of mature urban cores. Other young families are moving from smaller cities and small metro areas, particularly in Texas’ high plains school districts, to become new pioneers in the State’s largest metropolitan suburbs, leaving schools in many West Texas and East Texas school districts without sufficient student populations.