“This is a story of patience, persistence and a lot of humility.”

That’s how Los Gatos Superintendent Dr. Diana Abbati described her experience working with her community to change the culture of how school facilities were shared with the community. Dr. Abbati recently discussed the challenges associated with school facilities with Education Talk Radio’s Larry Jacobs.

“Going too fast too quickly is never a good idea. But having conversations (with community groups about facility use) takes a long time and without data there's no where to go, and that’s where Facilitron really helped us out.”

Dr. Abbati, who recently presented at California’s CASH Conference in Sacramento on “Creative Solutions to Facility Use,” discussed the California Civic Center Act and the importance of collecting data on facility use to substantiate conversations with the community. These conversations are meant to begin a process to change historical views regarding access and the costs shouldered (or not shouldered) by the community - ultimately to prevent funds being taken out of the classroom to fund community programs.

“The school districts are community assets,” Dr. Abbati said, explaining how the district worked with the city of Los Gatos to come to a joint use agreement in the 1970s. This agreement ended up saving city recreation groups and allowed them to access school facilities at little or no charge. “We wanted to continue to do that, however we were doing it at the cost of student programs. We were not regaining enough costs - and let me just say cost neutral - amounts to maintain the facilities over time. So we were losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in student programs."

Facilitron’s scheduling and reservation system tracked both internal and external use of district facilities and revealed that over 31 thousand hours of facility use was from community groups - over 45% of total use. “When Facilitron came along, their online platform allowed the school districts (to have) a mechanism to capture the usage by organization so that you can actually have constructive conversations. We didn’t have that information before.”

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