Trends in Schools & School Districts
A Look at Trends in Schools and School Districts
In the next few pages, we'll consider Industry Report survey responses from professionals working for schools and school districts, who made up 11.2% of all respondents.
The largest number of school respondents were located in the Midwestern states. Some 41.3% of school respondents said they were from this region. The Northeast followed, with 22.2% of school respondents. Less than one-fifth of school respondents were located in the West (17.5%) and the South Central region (15.9%). Very few, just 3.2%, were located in the South Atlantic region.
As usual, school respondents were most likely to be located in rural communities, and were far more likely to hail from rural areas than other respondents. More than half (52.4%) of school respondents said they were located in rural communities, compared with 34.5% of non-school respondents. Another 31.7% of school respondents said they were from suburban communities, and 15.9% were located in urban areas.
The schools represented by the survey are overwhelmingly public, with 93.7% of school respondents indicating that they work for public schools. Another 4.8% said they were with private, nonprofit schools, and 1.6% were with private, for-profit schools.
School respondents tend to reach smaller populations than other respondent types. In 2022, school respondents reached an average population of 22,410 people, up from 14,060 in 2021, but still lower than 2020, when they reached an average of 30,080 people. Nearly three-quarters (73.8%) of school respondents said they reach a population of 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 50.7% of non-school respondents. And while 18.5% of non-school respondents said they reach a population of 100,000 people or more, just 4.9% of school respondents said they serve a population of at least 100,000 people.
On average, school respondents said they manage 7.1 facilities, up from 6 in 2021, but a bit lower than 2020 (7.6) and 2019 (8.7). Nearly half (49.2%) of school respondents said they manage between one and three facilities, while 36.1% manage four to nine, and 14.8% manage 10 or more different facilities.
Respondents from schools and school districts in 2022 were more likely than those in 2021 to report that they had partnered with outside organizations. Some 92.1% of school respondents said they had partnered with others, up from 90.4% in 2021, and 86.8% in 2020. This compares with just 81.1% of non-school respondents who partnered with other organizations in 2022. The most common partners for school respondents include: other local schools (81%), state government (65.1%), local government (55.6%), federal government (36.5%), and colleges and universities (25.4%).
School respondents were by far the most likely to report that teens age 13 to 18 made up their primary audience. In fact, more than six in 10 (61.9%) school respondents said they primarily reached teenagers, compared with just 5.4% of non-school respondents. Another 20.6% of school respondents said they primarily reached all ages, while 7.9% said children ages 4 to 12 are their main audience, and another 7.9% said adults were their main audience. A small number, 1.6%, said their primary audience was made up of infants and toddlers.
Revenues & Expenditures
In typical years, schools tend to report stable revenues from one year to the next, with a majority not seeing any change, either up or down. That said, they do feel the impact of major events, such as the recession in the late aughts and, obviously, the coronavirus pandemic. When these types of events lead to a decrease in revenues for schools and school districts, they tend to take longer to show recovery in the Industry Report results.
In 2020, 45.9% of school respondents reported that their revenues had decreased from the preceding year, a big jump over the more typical numbers reporting decreases, which tend to hover just above 10%. The year 2021 saw a continuation of this trend, with 37.1% reporting a decrease in revenues, 46.8% indicating that revenues had held steady, and just 16.1% reporting an increase. (See Figure 54.)
School respondents begin to be more likely than usual to expect increasing revenues in 2022, with 31.7% expecting an increase, 46% expecting no change and 22.2% expecting a decrease. And in 2023, a third (33.3%) of school respondents are expecting their revenues to increase, while 48.3% expect no change, and 18.3% expect a decrease.
While the average operating expense for all respondents to the Industry Report survey showed a 5.2% decrease, school respondents saw an 8.8% increase to their average operating cost, from $1,690,000 in 2020 to $1,840,000 in 2021.
Looking forward, they expect virtually no change to their operating costs in 2022, reporting a 0.5% decrease overall, to an average of $1,830,000. And in 2023, school respondents are projecting their operating expenses to increase 4.9% over 2022, to an average of $1,920,000.
On average, school respondents recover 33.6% of their operating costs via revenue. This is down from 45.6% in 2021 and 42.9% in 2020, but still slightly higher than the average for 2019 of 31.4%. Around one-third (33.6%) of school respondents said they recover 30% or less of their operating expenditures via revenues. Another 6.8% recover between 31% and 50% of their costs, while 5.1% earn back 51% to 70% of their costs. Some 18.6% of school respondents said they recover 71% or more of their operating costs via revenues.
School respondents' facilities were far more likely to receive some portion of their funding from district taxes, state taxes and federal taxes than other respondents. More than three-quarters (75.4%) of school respondents said that district taxes were a source of funding for their facilities, compared with just 7.7% of non-school respondents. And some 45.9% of school respondents named both state taxes and federal taxes as funding sources, compared with just 6.1% (state taxes) and 4.8% (federal taxes) of non-school respondents. Other relatively common sources of funding for school respondents' facilities included: government grants (39.3%), city or municipal taxes (36.1%), and individual donations (31.1%).
Respondents from schools and school districts were far less likely than non-school respondents to report that they had taken action to reduce their operation costs. Some 63.8% of school respondents in 2022 said they had acted to reduce their operating costs, down from 71.4% in 2021. This compares with 87.2% of non-school respondents in 2022 who had taken such action (down from 91.8%). That said, schools were more likely than others to have improved energy efficiency than other types of facilities. The No. 1 action taken by schools to reduce their operating costs was improving their energy efficiency, with more than one-third (34.5%) indicating they had done so. This compares with 27.8% of non-school respondents. More than one-fifth (20.7%) of school respondents said they had put construction or renovation plans on hold, while 15.5% had reduced staff levels or reduced their hours of operation, and 13.8% had cut programming or services in order to reduce their operating costs.
Typically, school respondents are most likely to report that the number of people using their facilities is holding steady over time. The years 2020 and 2021, with their pandemic impact, represent a departure from this norm, while 2022 shows the beginning of a return to normal, with numbers in 2023 following the usual trend. More than one-third of school respondents reported a decrease in the number of people using their facilities in 2020 (39.1%) and 2021 (33.3%). In 2021, just 17.5% reported an increase in users (down from 20% in 2020), and just under half (49.2%) said usage had remained the same (up from 40.9%.) (See Figure 55.)
In 2022, one-third (33.3%) of school respondents said they expect the number of people using their facilities to be higher, while around half (50.8%) expect that number to hold steady, and 15.9% expect a decrease. The year 2023 shows a return to the typical pre-pandemic numbers, with 31.6% expecting an increase, 57.9% expecting numbers to remain unchanged, and 10.5% expecting a decrease.
After a steady increase for a number of years, the percentage of school respondents who report that they have plans for construction has fallen over the past couple of years, from 69.3% in 2020 to 58.3% in 2021, and 57.1% in 2022. This compares with 72.2% of non-school respondents who have plans for construction over the next several years. Around a quarter (25.4%) of school respondents in 2022 said they are planning to build new facilities over the next three years. One-third (33.3%) are planning additions, and 30.2% are planning renovations to their existing facilities. (See Figure 56.)
At the same time that fewer school respondents are planning construction, they are also planning to spend much less on the construction they do have planned. School respondents in 2022 who had plans for construction were planning to spend an average of $5,670,000, 16.1% lower than the average for 2021 of $6,760,000, and 1.2% lower than the average reported in 2019, of $5,740,000.
The most common features found among school respondents' facilities in 2022 are just what you might expect: locker rooms, bleachers and seating, indoor courts for sports like basketball and volleyball, classrooms and meeting rooms, concession areas, natural turf sports fields, fitness centers, outdoor courts for sports like tennis and basketball, outdoor running tracks, and playgrounds.
School respondents were among the least likely to indicate that they had plans to add features to their facilities over the next three years. Some 23.8% of school respondents said they had such plans, up from 20% in 2021. This compares with 41% of non-school respondents who have plans to add features to their facilities.
The 10 most commonly planned features for school respondents include:
- Synthetic turf sports fields (40% of schools with plans to add features said they would be adding synthetic turf)
- Concession areas (26.7%)
- Bleachers and seating (26.7%)
- Locker rooms (26.7%)
- Fitness centers (20%)
- Indoor sports courts (20%)
- Classrooms and meeting rooms (20%)
- Outdoor tracks (20%)
- Restroom structures (13.3%)
- Indoor tracks (13.3%)
A majority (93.7%) of school respondents said they offer programming at their facilities, down from 97.3% in 2021.
As usual, the most common program provided at school respondents' facilities was youth sports teams. Some 82.5% of school respondents in 2022 said their facilities are home to youth sports teams, compared with just 46.1% of non-school respondents. This is an increase from 2021, when 77.9% of school respondents included youth sports teams in their programming lineup.
The other top programs found at school respondents' facilities include: educational programs (69.8%), sports tournaments and races (50.8%), fitness programs (49.2%), individual sports activities such as running clubs (44.4%), group exercise programs (42.9%), special needs programs (39.7%), performing arts programs (34.9%), swimming programs (33.3%), teen programs (31.7%), and day camps and summer camps (31.7%).
Respondents from schools and school districts were the least likely to be planning to add programs at their facilities over the next few years. Just 12.7% of school respondents said they had such plans, down from 14.8% in 2021. This compares with 38.6% of non-school respondents.
The top planned program additions for school respondents include:
- Fitness programs (no change from 2021)
- Group exercise programs (up from No. 3)
- Performing arts programs (did not appear among top planned programs for schools in 2021)
- Nutrition and diet counseling (did not appear in 2021)
- Educational programs (up from No. 9)
- Teen programming (down from No. 4)
- Sports tournaments and races (did not appear in 2021)
- Special needs programs (did not appear in 2021)
- Youth sports teams (did not appear in 2021)
- Personal training (did not appear in 2021)
Maintenance, Fitness Are Among Top Concerns
As last year, school and school district respondents named equipment and facility maintenance as their top challenge, though the number calling this a top concern did drop slightly. Half (50%) of school respondents in 2022 said equipment and facility maintenance was a top concern, down from 55.6% in 2021. (See Figure 57.)
Also similar to last year, school respondents were more likely than non-school respondents to name general fitness and wellness, and youth fitness and wellness as top industry concerns. More than three out of 10 (31.7%) school respondents said general fitness and wellness was a top concern, compared with 23.7% of non-school respondents. And while 26.7% of school respondents said youth fitness and wellness was a top concern, just 14.8% of non-school respondents called youth fitness a top concern. RM