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


Chubbuck council rejects putting T-Mobile cell tower at school playground
-- Mike Petrovsky, Idaho State Journal

Idaho: December 18, 2014 -- The Chubbuck City Council voted 3-1 Wednesday night to deny a request by T-Mobile to build an 80-foot-tall, single-pole cellphone tower on a playground at Chubbuck Elementary School. Councilman Ryan Lewis made the motion to deny the cellphone company’s plan because the city ordinance regarding cell towers requires T-Mobile to explain to the city why the company chose a school site, which is ranked No. 10 or last in a top 10 list of possible locations for a cell tower over the nine other higher ranked general locations in the ordinance. Councilman Kermit Morrison cast the lone no vote on the measure, but refused to comment when the Journal asked him why. Councilman Josh Ellis went along with Lewis’ motion, even though he opposed the tower because T-Mobile was asking the city to waive a requirement in the ordinance that the tower be located at least 100 feet from all nearby structures. In one instance, the tower plan allowed for only an 80-foot distance. Ellis believes the company should have presented advice from a third or neutral party to explain why waiving the requirement was necessary as, according to his interpretation, is a condition stated in the ordinance. The city received 12 formal appeals from residents opposed to the tower. Six of those residents spoke before the council during a comment period Wednesday night. In all, about 30 people attended the meeting. One homeowner told council he was concerned about the tower ruining the neighborhood’s aesthetics and would thereby lower his property value. Other concerns residents voiced were those involving young children being exposed to radiation generated by the tower and the possibility the tower would collapse and hurt the children in the playground.


SCHOOLS DEVELOPMENT AGENCY'S CHIEF CITES GAINS, ACKNOWLEDGES CHALLENGES
-- John Mooney, NJ Spotlight

New Jersey: December 18, 2014 -- While a number of projects are in the works, funding for Abbott districts is running low – and is virtually depleted for non-Abbott school projects While the Schools Development Authority, under new leadership, continues to make strides in winning support and getting school projects off the ground, it now faces a bigger challenge: the school construction agency is running low on money. SDA representatives came before the Legislature’s Joint Committee for the Public Schools yesterday – and they managed, by and large, to quiet what has been a drumbeat of criticism of the agency ever since Gov. Chris Christie all but halted its work for two years.


Caddo proposes building three, closing six schools
-- Alexandria Burris, The Shreveporttimes.com

Louisiana: December 18, 2014 -- Caddo schools officials are planning to close six schools to build three new ones, buy new buses and upgrade facilities throughout the district. But first the district will need approval from the Caddo Parish School Board to ask voters to approve a bond proposition to reallocate an existing tax. If voters approve, the proposal would permit the district to issue up to $108 million in bonds and reallocate one-mil of a six-mil tax currently used to pay off previous bond issues. The bonds would be issued in series and each issue would have a life of 20 years. Jim Lee, the school district's chief financial officer, said the bonds would be issued in increments. The proposal, district officials say, allows the school district to operate more efficiently, create better educational opportunities for students, eliminate unnecessary facilities not needed to house the district's students, prepare for population shifts, upgrade technology to focus on STEM instruction and career education and rid the district of temporary buildings.


Civil engineers give Nevada infrastructure C-minus - School Buildings Receive Lowest Grade
-- Michelle Rindels - Associated Press, The Fresno Bee

Nevada: December 17, 2014 -- LAS VEGAS — Civil engineers gave Nevada's infrastructure a C-minus grade in its latest report card, saying maintenance funding isn't keeping pace with the needs of aging school buildings, dams and roads. The 2014 report card from the Nevada section of the American Society of Civil Engineers is a downgrade from the group's last rating in 2007, when the state received a C grade. The report card is not released annually. "With Nevada's economy growing again, we've also been presented with new opportunities to diversify our economy, and therefore we must make the investment in infrastructure to match these opportunities," Chuck Joseph, a civil engineer who led the report card committee, said in a statement. Nevada's school facilities got the lowest grade of any subsection in the report card, with a D. Report authors said the lack of regular maintenance at schools leads to more emergency repairs, which inflate costs four-fold.


Ohio passes bill to allow "shared use" of school facilities
-- Staff Writer, newswise

Ohio: December 17, 2014 -- Ohio lawmakers made it easier for schools to open their gymnasiums, pools, playgrounds, running track, athletic fields and other facilities to public use during non-school hours by passing legislation Wednesday that clarifies liability issues. The “shared-use” bill, which becomes law 90 days after it’s signed by Gov. John R. Kasich, does not automatically open school facilities to the public. Advocates anticipate the bill will be signed soon. But it does alleviate what school administrators say was the biggest concern about expanding access. “This bill will relieve some of that and ease the liability situation,” said State Representative Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster), the sponsor of Ohio House Bill 290. “There may still be some custodial expenses, but I think that this will be a good thing for school districts and give them greater comfort in opening their facilities.”


W.Va. authority OKs school construction projects
-- Associated Press, WCHS 8

West Virginia: December 16, 2014 -- Nine counties will receive state funding for school construction projects. The Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/1qVvlod) reports that the West Virginia School Building Authority approved about $5.6 million for major improvement projects on Monday. The authority also approved about $1.6 million for projects affecting more than one school district.


School Board discusses suing RSD to prevent it from opening new schools
-- Marta Jewson - The Lens, The New Orleans Advocate

Louisiana: December 15, 2014 -- The Orleans Parish School Board met in closed session Thursday to consider suing the Recovery School District to try to prevent it from reopening shuttered schools, particularly John McDonogh and Sarah T. Reed high schools. No vote was taken when the board returned to public session, and the issue will go before the board again Tuesday. The School Board is opposed in principle to the RSD opening new schools in the city — a position the board made known through a resolution passed in October. Board members contend that opening new schools is exclusively within their purview. They say the RSD was established to take over and improve failing schools, a process that board members concede includes choosing new operators for existing schools, but not starting new programs in completely closed schools. Last year, the RSD closed Reed and John McDonogh high schools. Now, it is soliciting applications for new operators for each. The OPSB requested control of John McDonogh from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this summer. BESE requested an attorney general’s opinion on whether it had the authority to return the school and helped begin a cooperative process between the two districts to get the high school running again. But before the state board received an answer, it gave the RSD complete control over the process.


South Philadelphia High drives toward becoming a community school
-- Payne Schroeder, The Notebook

Pennsylvania: December 15, 2014 -- For Kamoy Gumbs, a senior at South Philadelphia High School, the school day doesn’t end after the final bell. Instead, he heads up to the third floor to do some homework in the school’s teen lounge before he trades his pencil for an apron. “I love cooking, and one of my friends told me about it, so I came over,” said Gumbs, 17, who takes part in a culinary arts program after school provided by Sunrise of Philadelphia, a social services organization. “I started in 10th grade -- it’s my third year. I go every day.” Southern, as the school is often called, has been working with local service providers like Sunrise for three years to provide afterschool programming and social services inside its building for students, parents, and, when it can, other community members. In addition to the culinary program, the school offers many other services, including class credit recovery, sexual health education, outpatient therapy, college preparation for children of migrant and refugee parents, and social benefit access. In August, City Council held a hearing on the possibility of creating “community schools” in the District. Then, in late October, the District’s chief of student services, Karyn Lynch, announced tentative plans to turn Southern and Strawberry Mansion into community schools. Although definitions vary somewhat, the idea of a community school is grounded in a notion of the neighborhood school as a vital educational and social service hub in the community. Classes are held like at any other school, but a community school threads social and academic supports into its educational model, forging partnerships with neighborhood services that cater to students and their families.


Vista Unified changing boundaries for elementary schools
-- Pat Maio, UT San Diego

California: December 15, 2014 -- An influx of hundreds of students from new housing developments in Vista and eastern Oceanside is expected to change elementary school boundaries in the Vista Unified School District — a boom not seen in decades, according to school officials. “This is a new challenge for us. There has never before been this kind of development going on in this community, at least since the ’90s,” said Donna Caperton, the Vista school district’s assistant superintendent of business services. The residential projects — in various stages of planning and construction — include about 2,200 housing units that would bring an estimated 1,551 new students to district schools, she said. One of the largest construction projects is south of state Route 78, where two district schools — Lake and Breeze Hill — are already at more than 90 percent capacity. Another is in northeast Vista near Foothill Oak Elementary, which is at 96.3 percent capacity — the most crowded elementary school in the district.


Playgrounds may be included when Loudoun builds future elementary schools
-- Caitlin Gibson, Washington Post

Virginia: December 15, 2014 -- For Loudoun County’s future elementary schools, playgrounds might come as part of the package. At a joint committee meeting this month between members of the Loudoun County School Board and the Board of Supervisors, officials agreed to examine the possibility of including playgrounds in construction costs for planned elementary schools. Committee members also indicated that they would consider providing playgrounds for the four county public elementary schools that do not have them: Frederick Douglass in Leesburg, Moorefield Station in Ashburn, Cardinal Ridge in South Riding and Meadowland in Sterling. Playgrounds at Loudoun elementary schools have historically been paid for through fundraising efforts by parent-teacher organizations and community members, some of whom have helped to foot the bill for more than one playground after students were assigned to a new school because of rezoning. Loudoun is one of just two Virginia jurisdictions, along with Culpeper County, that do not include a playground in an elementary school’s capital costs.

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