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Average age of U.S. school buildings is just under 50 years

K-12 Schools

Average age of U.S. school buildings is just under 50 years

About half of schools have never had a major renovation

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor  | February 29, 2024
Photo by Mary Taylor

Photo by Mary Taylor

The average age of a main instructional school building in the United States is 49 years, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). 

About 38% of schools were built before 1970. Roughly half of the schools surveyed have undergone a major building renovation or addition. Of those that have been renovated, the average age of the renovation was 14 years.

Major repair, renovation, or modernization work was being performed in 21% of all public schools surveyed as of December 2023. Indoor air quality is a major focus for many schools, with 39% having an indoor air quality coordinator on campus. This position is responsible for monitoring air quality conditions at the school and reporting air quality issues and complaints.

Some 60% of schools have designated vehicle loading and unloading areas at least 25 feet from all building air intakes, including doors and windows. Eighteen % of schools have an anti-idling program that includes signage and active monitoring during pick-up and drop-off times.

Some 31% of public schools have one or more non-permanent (portable) buildings in use.

Here are other findings from the NCES public school building survey:

The average age of the main instructional building is 49 years old. The following %ages of reporting public schools’ main instructional buildings were built during the following time periods:

  • Pre-1970: 38%
  • 1970 – 1999: 21%
  • 2000 – present: 20%

Nearly all public schools (93%) reported having some kind of athletic amenities on-site. The most commonly reported types of facilities were:

  • A gymnasium (69%)
  • All-purpose grass field (68%)
  • Outdoor basketball court (56%)
  • Baseball/softball field (38%)
  • Weight room (29%)
  • Outdoor track (28%)

Most public schools have dedicated library space available (89%).

Compared to the national estimate (89%), higher percentages of public schools with the following characteristics reported having dedicated library space available:

  • With 500-999 students (96%)
  • With a student body made up of 0-25% students of color (96%)
  • In rural areas (94%)
  • With 300-499 students (93%)
  • Elementary schools (93%)
  • In low-poverty neighborhoods (92%)

Compared to the national estimate (89%), lower percentages of public schools with the following characteristics reported having dedicated library space available:

  • In cities (84%)
  • In high-poverty neighborhoods (81%)
  • With a student body made up of 76% or more students of color (80%)
  • High/secondary schools (80%)
  • With 0-299 students (77%)

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