Half of schools in desperate need of renovations, often at education's expense
Almost half of the around 9,300 primary- and secondary schools in the Netherlands are in desperate need of renovation or repairs, according to new figures from Bouwend Nederland. “Thes unhealthy schools are at the expense of teachers' and students’ health,” Ruben Heezen of Bouwend Nederland said to NOS. “It also has a real effect on learning performance,”
According to Bouwend Nederland, the largest association of construction companies in the Netherlands, over 4,600 schools struggle with mold, moisture, drafts, and too little fresh air. They absolutely don’t meet the current ventilation, sustainability, and health requirements.
Schools are responsible for maintaining their buildings. Municipalities have to pay for schools’ renovations or new construction. But this doesn’t always work in practice, PO-Raad, the council for primary schools, said to the broadcaster. “The schools and municipalities both have too little money. Then there’s a fight, simply because there is too little money,” PO-Raad chairman Freddy Weima said. “Too little has been invested for decades.”
In a response, Education Minister Dennis Wiersma said that the money for maintenance comes from municipalities, and the cash his ministry disburses cannot be used for that purpose. He told reporters on Friday that he wanted to work as an intermediary, to hopefully find available funding within the budgets for social real estate projects and climate goals.
His said he would speak to his relevant colleagues on the Cabinet who are in charge of those budgets, Public Housing and Spatial Planning Minister Hugo de Jonge, and Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten. Additionally, Wiersma wants school building maintenance standards to be more clearly stated in Dutch law.
The PO-Raad and over 20 other organizations, including Bouwend Nederland, recently submitted an appeal to the Cabinet to invest 730 million euros into fixing up outdated schools. This Cabinet has earmarked a lot of money for education, the PO-Raad said. “But they have completely forgotten the buildings. That should be given much more priority.”
The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, will debate school buildings with Minister Dennis Wiersma for Primary and Secondary Education on December 1.