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


GAO: Indian Affairs doesn't know the state of its schools across the country
-- Ryan McDermott, FierceGovernment

National: March 1, 2015 -- The Bureau of Indian Education doesn't know the state of its schools across the country due to inaccurate or incomplete data collected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, says a Feb. 27 Government Accountability Office report. GAO's investigation shows that issues with the quality of data on school conditions – such as inconsistent data entry by schools and inadequate quality controls – make determining the number of schools in poor condition difficult. "These issues impede Indian Affairs' ability to effectively track and address school facility problems," the report says. GAO's found that BIE schools in three states faced a variety of facility-related challenges, including problems with the quality of new construction, limited funding, remote locations and aging buildings and infrastructure. But even when BIE recognizes a school is in poor shape, there are still challenges to get it back in good standing. GAO found declines in staffing levels and gaps in technical expertise among facility personnel at the schools. And the report found that BIA did not provide consistent oversight of some school construction projects.


Schools are locking up tracks and play fields to keep out vandals
-- Kari Bray, HeraldNet

Washington: March 1, 2015 -- EVERETT — The track at Cascade High School in Everett is part of Judy Sasges' routine. She jogs there at least three times a week, more in the summer, and sets a steady pace for three and half miles. She's been doing it for 15 years. “I came when it was the dirt track,” she said. “I use this track all the time and I support every school issue that comes on the ballot.” On a sunny Monday evening, she did her laps while a group of teens tossed a football around in the middle of the bright red oval. It's easy to get onto the track and turf at the Cascade campus, Sasges said. She hopes that never changes. “I would be so disappointed if the track was ever closed,” she said. Less than five miles away, Everett High School's Lincoln Field is locked tight when it's not being used by students or sport teams. It's been that way — a tall chainlink fence with padlocks on the gates — for months. About a year ago, trash and vandalism caused the district to start keeping everyone out after school is done for the day, said Ysella Perez, the district's community services supervisor. Graffiti was painted on walls, soccer goals were dented and unusable for games, and people brought in dogs they didn't clean up after. Someone even set fire to a patch of the turf field. “It would be wonderful if the field could be left unlocked for neighborhood use,” Perez said. “But the damage is very costly to maintain the facility to be a safe environment for the students.” When bond measures go before voters, seeking millions of dollars to build or update athletic complexes, districts often sell voters on new features that can be used by everyone. School districts around Snohomish County have a responsibility to protect tracks, tennis courts and practice fields from vandalism, graffiti or filth. However, locking out the problems also means locking out responsible users, many of whom pay taxes that build and maintain the campuses and equipment. State law does not outline when districts can or cannot lock portions of their campuses, said Nathan Olson, a spokesman with the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.


Sioux City school officials prepare for slew of new construction
-- T.J. FOWLER, Sioux City Journal

Iowa: March 1, 2015 -- SIOUX CITY | District officials are looking to the future, as they prepare for a number of new schools to open throughout Sioux City in coming years. Even after the recent opening of Loess Hills Elementary, the school district has several other school construction projects slated through 2020. Superintendent Paul Gausman said the new facilities will keep students in the best classrooms. "As we build these schools, there are a lot of exciting things we're talking about," Gausman said. "We're able to build classrooms that are equipped for today's learner — they're larger, they're better-equipped and there's a lot more technology we're using than what's been available in the past." Loess Hills Elementary was the first of four new buildings planned by the Sioux City school district between now and 2020. At 1717 Casselman St., Loess Hills opened in August to replace former Emerson and Roosevelt elementary schools. The $16.2 million building comes equipped with an air conditioning system and brighter, more energy-efficient lighting. A gym with a stage can be converted into a multipurpose room for music classes, and two large computer labs provide access for all grades to the latest technology. Construction on the 96,000-square-foot Loess Hills building began in October 2012. The district is set to follow up the new facility with the opening of Morningside Elementary in August 2015.


In Arlington, growth threatens a building some view as historic
-- Moriah Balingit, Washington Post

Virginia: March 1, 2015 -- In this brick building on Wilson Boulevard, some see a historic gem in one of Arlington County’s oldest schools, where President Woodrow Wilson would pause and chat with children on the lawn. School officials see an outdated structure and an opportunity to relieve crowding elsewhere in the district, which is seeing unprecedented growth in the student population. The district, which owns the building, plans to tear it down and erect a building about eight times the size to house the H-B Woodlawn program and a program for students with special needs. But a civic association has made a final attempt to save the building, known as the Wilson School, calling for it to receive historic designation. The fight is emblematic of the growing pains in Arlington, where a population boom has put the squeeze on parks and historic structures. The district grew 5.2 percent this school year, putting enrollment at about 24,500 students.


Campus crunch: Growth brings influx of young students to Beach schools
-- COLLIN BREAUX, Panama City News Herald

Florida: February 28, 2015 -- PANAMA CITY BEACH — The Beach is booming. Bed tax collections and sales tax revenue show visitors are returning to Panama City Beach in record numbers. But as the Beach recovers from the Great Recession and Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it’s not just visitors who are contributing to the Beach economy. More full-time residents are moving their families over the Hathway Bridge, eating at restaurants and shopping in stores. According to Census data, in Panama City Beach the count for people ages 18 to 64 years old in 2010 was 7,988 individuals. In 2000 the count was 5,167 individuals. That was an additional 2,821 people in that decade. And they’re going to Beach schools. That has resulted in overcrowding at two Beach elementary schools, with no end to the trend in sight. Steve Moss, Bay District School Board chairman, said there are now plenty of affordable condos, apartments and single-family homes on the Beach. He said the board saw the growth, but enrollment accelerated faster than they thought it would. Moss drew a contrast with schools in Panama City, which he said have “plateaued.” Mainland schools such as Cedar Grove Elementary and Jinks Middle are not at a risk for tipping over the enrollment limit set by the School Board, according to 2014-2015 school enrollment data.


Horry County schools plow ahead with building plans
-- Claire Byun, SCNOW.com

South Carolina: February 28, 2015 -- After two years of planning and a handful of delays, Horry County Schools is making movement toward building five new schools. The district released the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) a second time Thursday after tossing out original conceptual design plans in November. Horry County Board of Education cited a need to request and review energy-positive designs for new schools, but kept its earlier plans for remodels and additions to two other schools. Unlike last year’s request, the current RFQ was written by district staff and board members in conjunction with Childs and Halligan, a Columbia law firm that has partnered with the district before for other legal reasons. Bick Halligan, with the firm, said it isn’t uncommon for school districts to seek the help of lawyers while writing large-scale contracts. “The [RFQ] is establishing a large contractual relationship over a period of time, and that’s the sort of thing lawyers are involved in,” Halligan said. The firm charges about $200 per hour for the services, Halligan said. The total amount the district spent on legal costs was not available Friday night. The district has budgeted $161.7 million to build five new schools, said John Gardner, chief financial officer. The total cost of the project is $451.6 million.


Inside Take: Philly’s Next Great Public Space? Schoolyards.
-- ANUJ GUPTA , Philadelphia Magazine

Pennsylvania: February 27, 2015 -- Over the past seven years, Philadelphians have witnessed a public space renaissance. No longer are apocalyptic Hollywood movies choosing Philadelphia as a backdrop because our physical environment perfectly fits the scene (remember Twelve Monkeys?). Instead, dynamic, transformative public spaces—from Spruce Street Harbor Park, Dilworth Plaza, the Porch at 30th Street, Lovett Park in Mt. Airy, and many others—are reflecting a newfound sense of civic pride. Now that we have built up in-house expertise in creating truly great public spaces, and developed credibility with public, private and philanthropic funders, we should harness that energy and apply it to what I call Philadelphia’s Public Space Initiative 2.0—the redesign of our public schoolyards. Our schools need to become Philadelphia’s next set of great public spaces. Public schools are widely accessible and deeply integrated into Philadelphia’s. This map, provided by the Philadelphia Water Department, shows the dispersion of schoolyards throughout the City. Unfortunately, too often schoolyards are in deplorable condition, with pockmarked pavement, aging play equipment and few amenities. And yet they exude potential. There is more than sufficient evidence to suggest that safe, inviting and engaging play areas allow children to get the exercise they need, develop social skills and ultimately perform better in the classroom. Additionally, given the vast real estate schoolyards occupy, they play a critical role in curb appeal, and curb appeal matters. Colleges and universities don’t invest in fancy gyms and cafeterias because they are mission-critical. They make those investments to draw in the prospective students that pay the bills for everything else. Upwards of 40 percent of the city’s student body now opts for charter schools. I’d argue improving schools’ curb appeal would give parents another reason to give their neighborhood school further consideration.


North Stonington boards debate options for aging school facilities
-- MICHAEL SOUZA, Mystic River Press

Connecticut: February 27, 2015 -- N. STONINGTON — The town’s aging school buildings have problems that need to be either repaired, renovated or entirely rebuilt. Prioritizing those items was debated Feb. 26, at a joint special meeting of the boards of Selectmen, Finance and Education. Rather than approach a school modernization as one big project, board members looked at pieces of the plan proposed last summer but rejected by voters, judging upgrades in safety, maintenance/energy and educational improvements. In terms of safety, members believe moving the offices of the elementary school to the front foyer area to be of prime importance, followed closely by safety improvements to the Route 2 tunnel and the abatement of PCBs and asbestos in the middle/high school. Air quality tests in the school were conducted earlier this winter and the results are expected to be released soon. “They have to do the sampling in the middle of winter, when the building is sealed because of the cold,” said Peter Nero, superintendent of schools. “That’s why it couldn’t be done before the kids came back to school, or in the fall.” Abandoning the use of the elementary school’s multi-purpose room as a gymnasium was also a concern. Addressing the need for new science, biology and chemistry labs was recognized as the most important educational improvement. Dealing with multiple lunch times at the middle/high school and relocating the music classroom and band from the gymnatorium were viewed as less important.


U.S. House holds Congress on record to improve Native schools
-- Ramona Marozas, nncnow.com

Minnesota: February 27, 2015 -- St. Paul, MN (NNCNOw.com) -- A push is underway to improve deteriorating tribal schools across the nation. The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously approved Rep. Rick Nolan's amendment for tribal school funding. The amendment puts Congress on record that Native children should not attend school in buildings that are dilapidated or deteriorating, which may negatively affect academic success. In his remarks on the House floor, Nolan specifically pointed out the struggles of the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School on the Leech Lake reservation in Minnesota. Nolan says this school is housed in an old pole building which has severe structural problems. "The Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School is cold and drafty in winter, hot in summer, and unfit for children and teachers in any season. Students endure rodent and bat infestations, roof leaks and holes, mold and fungus, a faulty air system, uneven floors, poor lighting, sewer problems, and dangerous electrical configurations," Rep. Rick Nolan (D) Minnesota said.


Bowser Keeps School-Boundary Changes Mostly Intact, With Two Tweaks
-- Aaron Wiener , Washington City Paper

District of Columbia: February 27, 2015 -- After criticizing her predecessor Vince Gray's plan to redraw school-assignment boundaries for exacerbating geographic inequality, Mayor Muriel Bowser has opted to keep that plan largely intact, making just two tweaks aimed at mitigating the effects of the changes. Gray adopted a plan last August for the first comprehensive reworking of the school boundaries in more than 40 years. His plan would have streamlined the complex network of feeder patterns that have left well-regarded schools overcrowded while others have closed due to under-enrollment. But it also threatened to force some families to send their children to lower-performing schools, leading Bowser to pledge revisions in order to ensure that Rock Creek Park and the Anacostia River wouldn't become more entrenched dividing lines between the city's haves and have-nots. But the revisions Bowser ultimately settled on, which she released today, don't substantially alter Gray's proposal. Instead, there are just two changes. The first aims to blur the divide formed by the Anacostia River. Under Gray's plan, Eastern High School's boundaries would have aligned largely with those of Ward 6, and students east of the Anacostia in Ward 7, who previously had access to Eastern, would have been moved to Woodson High School. Bowser has decided to allow students at Kelly Miller Middle School, in Ward 7, to attend either Woodson or Eastern. That allows these students to cross the river and attend what many expect to become the higher-performing Eastern, but, as Bowser office acknowledges in a "frequently asked questions" document it released today, it's likely to mean a smaller student population at Woodson.

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