Physical environment refers to the level of upkeep, ambient noise, lighting, indoor air quality and/or thermal comfort of the school’s physical building and its location within the community.
The physical environment of the school speaks to the contribution that safe, clean, and comfortable surroundings make to a positive school climate in which students can learn.
A well-maintained and safe physical environment fosters students’ ability to learn, to show improved achievement scores, and to exhibit appropriate behavior.
Creating a positive environment is necessary in order for teachers to teach effectively and for students to be receptive to learning. Facilities in good condition, including low noise levels, cleanliness, access to clean air and water, and absence of overcrowding are not only conducive to learning, but essential for student and staff overall health and well-being.
Dilapidated school buildings contribute to teacher despair and frustration, while building renovations can lead teachers to feel a renewed sense of hope and commitment. Overcrowding and heavy teacher workloads create stressful working conditions for teachers and lead to higher teacher absenteeism. Crowded classroom conditions limit the amount of time teachers can spend on innovative teaching methods and result in a constant struggle to simply maintain order. Thus the likelihood increases that teachers will suffer from burnout earlier than might otherwise be the case.
While the condition of school buildings and grounds is important, the neighborhoods surrounding our nation’s schools are not isolated from exerting influence. The condition of a school’s neighborhood exerts a substantial influence on the school as well as the students it serves. Thus, schools often inherit the difficulties present in their surrounding neighborhoods. The condition of a school often reflects the surrounding neighborhood’s condition. For example, schools with trash on the floors are more likely to be located in neighborhoods where litter and trash are prevalent; schools in which graffiti is evident are more likely to be in neighborhoods with graffiti; and schools with broken windows are more likely to be located in neighborhoods in poor condition.
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