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News items come from the U.S. Department of Educations's National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF).


Funds sought to repair Rosenwald school
-- Bill Walsh, StarNews Online

North Carolina: August 26, 2014 -- Come November, Pender County voters will decide whether to approve a $75 million bond for new school construction and existing school renovations. But one Pender County resident is working to raise funds to renovate a historic school building that is no longer used. Between the founding of the Rosenwald Fund in 1917 and its end during the Great Depression (1932), the African-American residents of Pender County built 19 Rosenwald schools on 15 different sites. A total of 813 Rosenwald schools were built in North Carolina, more than any other state, and Pender County led the region. Claudia Stack of Rocky Point is spearheading an effort to raise $5,000 before winter sets in to pay for a new roof on the former Lee’s Chapel School, a Rosenwald school near Maple Hill built in 1923-24. It’s a necessary first step in preserving the structure from any further damage. On Aug. 23, she and a group of volunteers planned to remove a false ceiling that was put in the building some years ago, and which is no longer serving any purpose while it is also getting in the way of the eventual rafter repair and re-roofing. African-Americans paid the same taxes in support of public education as their white counterparts, but their children were not allowed to attend the schools their tax dollars helped build, Stack said.


District to lease four more school buildings to charters
-- Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post

District of Columbia: August 26, 2014 -- The District is making four more surplus school buildings available for long-term lease by public charter schools this fall. This is the third group of buildings to become available since early 2013, when Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) first announced a list of 16 buildings the city intended to release for short- or long-term lease. Abigail Smith, deputy mayor for education, said the city is releasing the buildings over time in small batches so that the complex selection and negotiation process can be managed well and to give more charter schools a chance to compete for them. Charter advocates have long criticized the city for sitting on buildings left empty when schools close or consolidate while new charters must scramble for space. Shining Stars Montessori Academy, for example, secured a building just days before school opened this year after last-minute problems with two other locations. “What happened to Shining Stars is an extreme example of what is typical for charter schools, which is a fairly desperate struggle to get the buildings they need to open in or expand into,” said Robert Cane, executive director of FOCUS, a pro-charter advocacy group. The school buildings the city will make available are Fletcher-Johnson on Benning Road SE; Gibbs on 19th Street NE; Mamie D. Lee on Gallatin Street NE; and M.C. Terrell-McGogney on Wheeler Road SE.


Montgomery, state officials optimistic on 2015 school construction bill
-- Lindsay A. Powers, Maryland Community News Online

Maryland: August 25, 2014 -- Some Montgomery County and state officials are hopeful the General Assembly will pass a bill in 2015 that would direct more school construction money to the county after efforts in the last legislative session to secure such funding fell through. After a Monday event at Wilson Wims Elementary School — built to relieve overcrowding in the Clarksburg area — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said he feels “very confident” state lawmakers can “make some progress” in the upcoming session toward a funding method that would help the county accommodate its growing student body. As students returned to class on Monday, the county school system faced its largest enrollment increase from one school year to the next since 2000. Montgomery schools will have 154,153 students this year — 2,864 more than last year, according to Bruce Crispell, director of the school system’s Division of Long-range Planning. Leggett and other officials said they think a successful November election for Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown might provide a boost to school construction legislation in the 2015 session. Brown already has been part of an administration that has provided “record” investments in the county’s education system, Leggett said. “I’m confident given at least the expression of the candidates running for governor, especially Mr. Brown, that we have an excellent opportunity of putting together a package collaborating with the local communities to in fact at least move forward and getting us the resolution that we want,” Leggett said.


DCPS Enrollment Numbers Continue to Increase
-- Perry Stein , Washington City Paper

District of Columbia: August 25, 2014 -- More than 47,000 students started classes at a D.C. public school today at the city's 111 schools—the highest enrollment numbers the system has posted in more than five school years, D.C. Public Schools announced today. These enrollment figures do not include students enrolled in charter schools. Last year, the burgeoning charter school system in D.C. had nearly 37,000 students enrolled. DCPS also hired 500 new staff members this year, including 300 new teachers and 29 school counselors. “We are going big this year at DCPS – with more students in our schools, longer school days across the city and a continued focus on engaging and supporting our students to strive for their absolute best, I am so excited for what’s to come,” DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson said in a statement. The more than 47,000 students represent a slight increase from the 46,393 students in attendance last school year. D.C. enrollment numbers have been steadily increasing since 2008, when the school system had slightly more than 45,000 students. The 47,000 figure released today is not the official audited number. According to enrollment data, DCPS has more than 65,000 students enrolled in 2001. Those numbers plummeted to a low of 44,718 students during the 2009-2010 school year as an increasing number of students left the traditional public school system for charter schools. In 2001, by contrast, just 10,679 students attended a charter school.


SRJC, Sonoma County schools report little damage from quake
-- JAMIE HANSEN, The Press Democrat

California: August 25, 2014 -- All Sonoma County public schools were open as usual Monday morning following Sunday’s earthquake outside Napa, according to the county Office of Education. County Superintendent Steve Herrington said in a statement that his office had received no reports of damage from the various school districts Monday morning. However, he said some school buses, especially in the Sonoma Valley Area, could be delayed by road repairs. Santa Rosa Junior College will also be open as usual, including its Petaluma campus, Shone Farm, the public training and safety center, and southwest Santa Rosa center. Spokesperson Ellen Maremont Silver said staff on Sunday evaluated all the college’s campuses and found that they were operating well, with minimal issues reported. Staff will continue assessing buildings for cracks, strange smells or broken watering systems. “Something that was working normally yesterday could turn out to be damaged today, especially with our many older buildings and the possibility of aftershocks,” she said.


EDITORIAL: Booming enrollment worsens school district’s space problems
-- Staff Writer, LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

Nevada: August 25, 2014 -- The Clark County School District’s space crunch suddenly is far worse than expected. And it was expected to be pretty darn bad when the new academic year started this morning. Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky told the Review-Journal’s editorial board Thursday that more than 320,000 students are expected to arrive at elementary, middle, high school and alternative campuses today. That’s 5,000 more students than were enrolled at the start of last year — enough children to fill a couple of new high schools or six or seven new elementary schools — and 3,000 more students than were enrolled in June. Only there are no new schools, just as there were no new schools last year. The district has no capital funding to spend on school construction. School officials were expecting an additional 1,500 students for the start of this year. Instead, they’ll get at least twice that number. And it’s normal in Southern Nevada for even more families to show up for the first day of class to enroll on the spot. And then there’s the additional 2,000 (or more) students who will enroll at schools throughout the new year. It’s entirely possible that the school district will have an enrollment of close to 323,000 students by June 2015. For additional perspective on this number, consider that just nine months ago, the school district was projecting annual enrollment growth of between 0.5 and 1 percent over the next five years. Conservative estimates had enrollment reaching 323,000 by 2018. That number will arrive about three years sooner than expected. The school district’s enrollment growth rate is 2 percent. That’s a pre-recession figure. The School Board decided against placing a construction issue on November’s ballot, largely because voters overwhelmingly rejected such a measure in 2012, and this year’s election already features a tax question for schools: Question 3, the business margins tax. Trustees are expected to ask voters in 2016 for a bond extension, but even if it’s approved the first wave of new schools wouldn’t be complete until 2019. By then, the Clark County School District could have 350,000 students. The school district and its students can’t wait that long for a solution, and elementary schools can only hold so many portable buildings. So Mr. Skorkowsky is pressing for creative solutions for next year. He already has announced a magnet school expansion that should help fill under-capacity schools while relieving crowding elsewhere. And now the district is exploring moving pre-kindergarten and early education programs out of traditional elementary schools and into vacant commercial or office space, creating more room for K-5 classes.


Odyssey Elementary will be the most 'green' Utah school
-- McKenzie Romero, ksl.com

Utah: August 24, 2014 -- WOODS CROSS — In planning the new Odyssey Elementary School, school district officials looked to nature. Awed parents and excited children flooded the colorful, open-concept elementary for a back-to-school night, taking in the building's unique layout. Classrooms are distributed between four wings, called "habitats," that branch off the building's central area and are named to inspire students to swim, run, jump and fly. Full of natural light thanks to banks of big windows, Odyssey will be powered by the sun thanks to more than 1,200 solar panels and will use less energy than any other school in Utah, making it the "greenest" school in the state, according to the Davis School District. "I like the doors," said 8-year-old Kera Keeler, investigating a large, roll-up door that connects her new classroom in the "fly" habitat to a communal center. Bryan and Eva Keeler, Kera's parents, said they believe the new school will jumpstart the year for Kera and her 7-year-old sister, Leslie. "I think it's a school for the times. It's something that wouldn't have have existed back when I was a kid," Bryan Keeler said. "I think for kids these days, it's probably just the ticket. It's technologically advanced and just kind of cool." Tucker Farris, who starts fourth grade in the "swim" habitat Monday, is especially excited about the open and active feel of his new school. "It's different than other schools," Tucker said. "I like unusual things." Tucker's mom, April Farris, said she likes the new technology available at the school and the way her son's classroom (complete with rolling desks and chairs, fun shaped stools and countless customizable white board surfaces) fits with his active personality. "Kids like to move and so, in some ways, I think it could help them focus if they have some leeway," Farris said. "He'll either thrive or get distracted."


Superintendents say deferred maintenance in Rhode Island schools is driving up costs
-- LINDA BORG, Providence Journal

Rhode Island: August 23, 2014 -- Two North Providence elementary schools, the state's oldest, were built in 1900. Two schools in Pawtucket date to 1918 and 1919. The last new school was constructed in 2012. Rhode Island’s 276 public schools are aging rapidly, and, at the current rate, it would cost $1.8 billion to bring them up to good condition, according to a state study. The General Assembly in July extended a three-year moratorium on new construction until May 1, 2015, to give leaders time to devise a way of paying for major school renovations. But superintendents say that every year the moratorium is in place, crucial maintenance and repairs go undone, driving up the cost and making bond referendums less palatable to voters. “The whole funding formula was designed to level the playing field,” said Tim Duffy, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees. “We’ve turned our backs on that with public infrastructure. We are leaving students in classrooms that are woefully inadequate. When you shut off the spigot for everyone, the districts with the most need are the most impacted.” Smithfield Supt. Robert O’Brien calls it “the perfect storm” — the confluence of tough economic times with a halt to new construction. “Every year they delay it, they are making the problem bigger and bigger,” O’Brien said. In district after district, years of deferred maintenance have turned small repairs into big ones. The Rhode Island Department of Education estimates that $600 million worth of projects have been delayed by the moratorium. Smithfield has schools built in the 1940s and ’50s that need new roofs. It has classrooms in the basement that no longer meet code. It has buildings with asbestos and fire-code issues.


Construction projects to update older Plano ISD buildings, other facility needs
-- JULISSA TREVIÑO, The Dallas Morning News

Texas: August 22, 2014 -- Construction projects totalling $57.1 million now in progress or under design are addressing maintenance needs and a change in classroom sizes at Plano ISD this summer. Parents and students will see major changes to some schools this fall, most of which are upgrades to facilities funded under a 2008 bond program. Four projects are wrapping up this summer for the start of the school year — an addition to Hunt Elementary School, an addition and renovation at Brinker Elementary, an addition and renovation at Daffron Elementary and a $1 million third-floor renovation at Academy High School. Except for Hunt Elementary, the projects are not a result of enrollment growth. “Right now, enrollment is fairly flat. We’re pretty much built out,” Plano ISD Superintendent Richard Matkin said. Steve Fortenberry, the district’s chief financial officer, who oversees facility construction and renovation, said Hunt Elementary, which is in Murphy in the eastern side of the district, represents one of the last areas where the district expects to see growth. “That’s really the last part of the district that’s being built out,” Fortenberry said. “If you look at a map of the district, there’s not a lot of undeveloped land.” The renovation of Hunt Elementary will add eight classrooms and dining space to accommodate for enrollment growth at the school, Fortenberry said. The school’s enrollment grew from 666 in the fall of 2012 to 719 last fall. It is expected to continue to grow and peak at 774, said Plano ISD communications director Lesley Range-Stanton. The renovation will increase capacity at the school to 765 from 615. At Brinker and Daffron elementary schools, renovations will update the classrooms and other areas. “Those schools are having what we call our 20-year maintenance renovations,” Fortenberry said. “We want to bring them up to the current building codes, and we also need to bring them up to [Texas Education Agency] classroom sizes.”


Vote on SF school assignment system delayed for months
-- Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle

California: August 22, 2014 -- An effort to tweak San Francisco’s school assignment system in favor of neighborhood schools was put on the back burner this week. A resolution by school board President Sandra Fewer and board member Rachel Norton introduced in June was expected to come up for a vote this month. But support for the measure on the board was iffy at best. Other board members resisted the change, questioning whether it would further segregate district schools or have other repercussions. Superintendent Richard Carranza and Fewer decided to delay a vote so district staff could research the issue. The current system requires families to submit a list of schools that they want their children to attend. If a school has enough spots for the families who want in, there are no issues. But if a school has fewer seats than families who listed it, a complicated tie-break system kicks in. Siblings of students get the first available seats. Then, families living in census tracts where students post the lowest test scores — the district calls them CTIP, for Census Tract Integration Preference — get second priority. Those in the school’s attendance area are third, followed by everyone else. Norton and Fewer wanted to swap the CTIP for a neighborhood school preference system. Norton agreed to the delay after realizing that if she pushed for a vote now, it would likely fail and could mean the board couldn’t take it up the issue again for a year — per board policy.

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