Facilitron was founded on one parent's simple idea that school districts needed a better way to manage sharing their buildings and grounds with the community. That parent, Facilitron CEO Jeff Benjamin, experienced the same frustrations that many parents with active kids faced trying to rent a school field for a team practice or event.
In the beginning
Although the idea was to create an easy-to-access online platform where requests could be made by the community and managed by school administrators, the first beta release of the Facilitron platform was greeted with only modest praise.
This is great, administrators said, but community requests are just a small part of our annual facility use. If this could manage all of our internal use too, now that would be something.
Motivated by the feedback, the young startup and its (at the time) six employees went back to work developing a more complete tool—one that managed both community requests and internal schedules, additional approval hierarchies, more roles and permissions and accommodated the complex requirements of larger organizations with customized workflows and significant internal use.
Facilitron was born.
As the client list grew, Facilitron continued to use the feedback from school districts and their renters as the driving force behind the development of more features and more flexibility—leading to one of the company's earliest slogans... "Created by us, designed by you."
Using data to create a framework
Working with school districts in California, it wasn't long until the true power of the platform came into focus—operational data. Loads of it. But unlike on the educational side, most operations departments at school districts had yet to have access to the tools and mindset to take advantage of this kind of operational data.
As Facilitron analyzed the data, it not only revealed operational gaps, it illuminated many of the ineffective processes and policies in place governing how school facilities are used. Simply put, schools were struggling to manage joint facility use (school and community) because they lacked effective processes and policies and the tools to measure them.
It's not surprising. Studies have documented how the demand for public facilities has increased in the last 40 years. Complex demographic and financial shifts as well as investment in school campus infrastructure has led to school facilities becoming important and highly desired spaces for a variety of joint use programs.
Yet policies at many districts were often formulated in the past—legacies of a bygone era when school district facilities were not in such demand—leading to many of the challenges that exist today.
In a paper on the subject entitled Joint Use of Public Schools: A Framework for a New Social Contract (download pdf) published by the 21st Century School Fund, a Washington DC-based non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality and equity of our public school infrastructure, the conclusion was similar:
"Current policies and guidelines often leave school district staff unprepared to navigate the competing pressures or requirements for extensive joint use of their facilities," the paper stated.
And for both schools and the community, the consequences were unfortunate.
"In the absence of adequate policy infrastructure, getting access to public school buildings or grounds for non-school use can be difficult or even impossible—especially for non-district organized programs and services. Not harnessing joint use and development strategies to achieve mutually-beneficial development or programming is a missed opportunity for schools and communities."
But that's only part of the story. At other districts, low or even no-cost access, the legacy of historical arrangements from the past, often carries with it too much momentum to derail. And given that a school's first priority is to student programs, it's easier to continue following an outdated policy than it is to change it—especially if you have no data on which to base changes.
At the heart of the disconnect is often resources and revenue. Increased use of school facilities is not only a burden on human resources, but also the financial resources of districts—already under pressure to operate and maintain facilities under tightening budgetary constraints. Operating under poorly developed joint use policies and with no data from which to base decisions leads districts to, more often than not, a culture of ad hoc decision-making and a status quo of losing money on any joint use—essentially what's collected on joint use is not equal to what it costs to provide.
Our passion is bringing communities and public spaces together.
Bridging the gap between school districts and communities benefits everyone. It's why Facilitron believes that developing and managing a facility use program requires more than just licensing software.
Since partnering with our first district in 2015, Facilitron has helped thousands of public facility owners use data to create processes and update policies to allow them to overcome the financial and human resource challenges of providing public spaces to their communities.
That's our passion and it extends into every department—and that's why we've become experts at facility management. From our executive team to our support teams, Facilitron is a new kind of solution focused on developing and managing facility use programs that allow our schools and communities to provide the needed athletic, educational, wellness and other programs that benefit children and adults and make our neighborhoods better places to live.
That is bringing communities and spaces together.