Trends in Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts

Here, we'll take a look at trends reported by respondents to the Industry Report survey who represent schools and school districts—making up 8.3% of all respondents.

As usual, the largest number of school respondents by far are located in the Midwest. Some 44.3% of school respondents said they were located in this region. It was followed distantly by the Northeast, where 18.3% of school respondents are located. Another 16.5% were from the South Central region, while 13% were from the West and 7.8% were from the South Atlantic states.

As is usually the case, school respondents were far more likely to be located in rural areas than other respondents. Nearly half (48.2%) of school respondents said they were located in rural communities, compared with 30.5% of non-school respondents. Another third (33.3%) of school respondents were found in suburban communities (compared with 45.2% of non-school respondents), while just 18.4% were located in urban areas, compared with 24.3% of non-school respondents.

More than nine out of 10 (90.4%) of school respondents said they worked for public schools, while 9.6% were with private, nonprofit schools

School respondents tend to reach the smallest of populations—no surprise given their tendency to be located in rural communities. In 2021, they reached an average population size of 14,060 people, down dramatically from 30,080 in 2020. Well over three-quarters (78.3%) of school respondents said they reach a population of 20,000 or fewer, compared with 45.8% of non-school respondents. Conversely, only 1.7% of school respondents said they reach a population of 100,000 or more, compared with 22.7% of non-school respondents.

On average, school respondents said that they manage an average of 6 facilities, down from 7.6 in 2020 and 8.7 in 2019. More than half (53%) said they manage between one and three facilities, while 34.8% manage from four to nine. Just 12.2% said they manage 10 or more different facilities.

School respondents in 2021 were more likely than those in 2020 to report that they had partnered with outside organizations. Some 90.4% of school respondents said they made such partnerships, up from 86.8% in 2020. This compares with 87.7% of non-school respondents. The most common partners for school respondents were: other local schools (65.2% of school respondents said they had partnered with other schools); local government (55.7%); state government (41.7%); federal government (27%); and nonprofit organizations (24.3%).

School respondents were much more likely than non-school respondents to report that the primary audience for their facilities was made up of teenagers from 13 to 18. Some 54.8% of school respondents said teens are their primary audience, compared with just 4.2% of non-school respondents. Another 24.3% of school respondents said they primarily reach all ages, while 11.3% said adults are their main audience. Some 8.7% said children ages 4 to 12 are their main audience, and 0.9% said college students are their main audience.

Revenues & Expenditures

Schools are generally much more likely to report even revenues from one year to the next than other types of respondents. However, when there is a big external impact, such as budget cuts due to the recession over a decade ago, or a drop due to coronavirus, as seen over the past year, it generally takes schools slightly longer to recover. This can be seen in this year's data, with schools much less likely than usual to report no changes to their revenues over the next several years.

In 2020, 41.4% of school respondents reported that their revenues had remained the same as in 2019—a big drop from the norm, which generally has between two-thirds to three-quarters of school respondents reporting no change. Just 12.6% of school respondents in 2020 said their revenues had increased, and 45.9% reported a decrease in revenues. (See Figure 53.)

In 2021, schools are expecting slightly more stability, though still nothing like a normal year. Some 21.9% of school respondents said they expect their revenues to be up in 2021, while 42.9% projected no change, and more than a third (35.2%) said they expect revenues to decrease this year.

Looking forward to 2022, nearly half (49.5%) of school respondents expect their revenues to remain steady, while 28.2% are expecting revenues to increase, and 22.3% are expecting revenues to decrease.

After a dramatic (and aberrant) increase to average operating expenses in 2019, school respondents, like most respondents, reported a stiff drop in their average operating cost in 2020. School respondents said their average operating expenditure in 2020 was $1,690,000—31% lower than the average for 2019 of $2,450,000. However, the average for 2020 is still 29% higher than the average in 2018 ($1,310,000).

Looking forward, school respondents projected a further decrease to their average operating expenses in 2021, reporting an expected average of $1,670,000, 1.2% lower than in 2020. In 2021, they expect to regain that lost ground and more, with a 1.8% year-over-year increase to an average of $1,700,000.

School respondents reported that they recover an average of 45.6% of their operating costs via revenue. This is up from 42.9% in 2020, and well above the average of 31.4% reported in 2019. More than one-third (34.2%) of school respondents said they recover 30% or less of their operating expenditures via revenues. Another 6.1% earn back between 31% and 50% of their revenues, while 7.9% recover between 51% and 70%. More than one-fifth (26.3%) of school respondents said they recover at least 71% of their operating costs via revenues.

School respondents were much less likely than non-school respondents to report that they had taken any action to reduce their operating costs, and in fact, were among the only respondents who were less likely in 2021 than in 2020 to report that they had done so. Just 71.4% of school respondents in 2021 said they had acted to reduce their operating costs, down from 76.3% in 2020. This compares with 91.8% of non-school respondents in 2021 who had taken action to reduce their operating costs (up from 81.8%). More than one-third of school respondents said they had reduced staff (34.8%) or cut programs and services (33.9%). Another 32.1% said they had worked to improve their energy efficiency, while 30.4% said they had temporarily closed facilities and 25% said they had reduced their hours of operation.

School Facilities

As with revenues, school respondents departed from their relatively steady norm in 2020, and don't expect things to settle back to normal until 2022, when it comes to the number of people using their facilities. In most years, a majority of schools tend to report steady numbers of people using their facilities. In 2020, however, just 40.9% reported that the number of people using their facilities remained the same. Another 39.1% reported a decrease, and 20% said the number of people using their facilities had risen.

This trend begins to reverse somewhat in 2021, with 56.9% reporting no change to the number of people using their facilities, while 25.7% expect a decrease and 17.4% expect an increase. Looking forward, 2022 sees a return to normal expectations, with 54% of school respondents expecting no change to the number of people using their facilities, while 35% expect to see an increase and 11% are expecting a decrease. (See Figure 54.)

After increasing steadily for a number of years, the percentage of school respondents who report that they have plans for construction dropped in 2021 to 58.3%, from 69.3% in 2020. The numbers for 2021 are nearly identical to the numbers reported in 2018. In 2021, 40% of school respondents said they were planning renovations to their existing facilities (down from 50.4% in 2020), while 22.6% were planning additions (down from 34.3%), and 20% were planning new construction (down from 32.1%). (See Figure 55.)

School respondents in 2021 were planning to spend $6,760,000 on their construction, down 3.3% from 2020's average of $6,990,000, and still 17.8% higher than the average for 2019, $5,740,000.

The most common features found among school respondents' facilities in 2021 include: locker rooms; indoor sports courts for sports like basketball and volleyball; concessions; bleachers and seating; outdoor tracks; natural turf sports fields; classrooms and meeting rooms; fitness centers; outdoor sports courts for sports like tennis and basketball; and Wi-Fi services.

Schools were the least likely of all respondents to report that they had plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. Just 20% of school respondents said they had plans to add features, down from 27% in 2020. This compares with 34.8% of non-school respondents.

The 10 most commonly planned features for school respondents include:

  • Synthetic turf sports fields (34.8% of schools with plans to add features said they would be adding synthetic turf)
  • Bleachers and seating (21.7%)
  • Outdoor tracks (17.4%)
  • Classrooms and meeting rooms (17.4%)
  • Park shelters (17.4%)
  • Wi-Fi services (13%)
  • Exercise studio rooms (13%)
  • Fitness centers (13%)
  • Community or multipurpose centers (13%)
  • Concessions (13%)

Programming

A majority of school respondents (97.3%) said they offer programs at their facilities, representing virtually no change from 2020, when 97.1% had programming. They were slightly less likely than non-school respondents to host programs at their facilities (97.6% of non-school respondents hosted programming).

The most common program provided at school respondents' facilities was youth sports teams, found among 77.9% of school respondents facilities. This compares with 54.1% of non-school respondents.

The remainder of the top 10 programs found at school respondents' facilities include: educational programs (70.8%); sports tournaments and races (54.9%); fitness programs (54%); individual sports activities such as running clubs (49.6%); group exercise programs (36.3%); performing arts programs (35.4%); swimming programs (34.5%); sport training such as golf or tennis lessons (31.9%); and holidays and other special events (31%).

School respondents were far less likely than others to report that they had plans to add programs at their facilities over the next three years. Just 14.8% of school respondents said they had plans to add programs, down from 16.8% in 2020 (but still higher than 2019, when just 12.2% had plans for program additions). This compares with 38.1% of non-school respondents.

The top planned program additions for school respondents include:

  • Fitness programs (no change from 2020)
  • Individual sports activities like running or swim clubs (did not appear in top planned programs for schools in 2020)
  • Group exercise programs (up from No. 4)
  • Teen programming (did not appear in 2020)
  • Mind-body/balance programs like yoga (did not appear in 2020)
  • Adult sports teams (did not appear in 2020)
  • Day camps and summer camps (down from No. 5)
  • Sport training such as tennis lessons (did not appear in 2020)
  • Educational programs (down from No. 7)
  • Arts and crafts (down from No. 9)

Top Challenges

Like all respondents, schools named equipment and facility maintenance as their top challenge. However, they were far more likely than those from other facilities to name this their No. 1 issue currently. Some 55.6% of school respondents said equipment and facility maintenance is their top concern, compared with 49.6% of non-school respondents.

Safety and risk management was the second most common concern for school respondents, with 38.9% naming this one of their top issues. This compares with 34.5% of non-school respondents.

School respondents were also far more likely to indicate that youth fitness and wellness is one of their top concerns than non-school respondents. More than a quarter (28.7%) of school respondents said youth fitness and wellness is a top issue of concern, compared with 17% of non-school respondents. (See Figure 56.)

Legislative issues were also more likely to be a concern for schools, with 17.6% of school respondents naming it a top issue, compared with 10.9% of non-school respondents. RM



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