News items come from the U.S. Department of Educations's National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF).
ROCHESTER SCHOOLS MODERNIZATION PROGRAM BUDGETS
Brian Sharp, DemocratandChronicle.com
March 9, 2014
-- A few years ago, when 15-year-old Unique Fair helped redesign the school he'd attended since he was a first-grader, he imagined walking out of its doors and into college and the future beyond.
But reality got in the way. Construction delays mean Fair and his School 58 classmates will begin senior year as they have every year of high school: in space at the Franklin high school building on Norton Street.
World of Inquiry, as School 58 is known, won't reopen on schedule this fall. It's the first casualty of a massive — and troubled, audits obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle show — effort to modernize Rochester's many aging school buildings. The internal performance audits and interviews with those involved describe a $1.3 billion multiphase project that is rushed and disjointed, rife with confusion and friction between the various entities tasked with its oversight.
City School District officials were indecisive and allowed anyone from key administrators down to school principals to seek changes to designs, the audits show. That, coupled with inaccuracies in the original building plans led to expensive add-ons: At School 58, a $41 million project that's the most expensive in Phase I, district officials demanded air conditioning after the project had gone out to bid. Then contractors discovered lead dust, an oil spill and steel so deficient the building could have collapsed.
Meanwhile, some accounts said key players such as program manager Gilbane Building Co. failed to provide the expertise promised, instead delegating tasks to others, at increased cost.
The firm hired to ensure compliance with minority contracting and hiring was faulted not just for lax oversight but, at times, a complete absence of it, calling into question its much-heralded successes.
The firm since has been replaced.
Long-promised community school comes to fruition
Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun
March 9, 2014
-- More than a decade before thousands rallied outside the State House in Annapolis for adequate school facilities for the city's children, several dozen residents met in a school lunchroom in Northeast Baltimore to lay the groundwork for building just one new school in their community.
The campaign for a new building in Waverly began in 2003 when the school board decided to expand the elementary school to serve middle school students as well. Eventually, city officials promised, those students would move into a new building to rival the high-performing Roland Park Middle, which they would have attended.
But a school system fiscal crisis, turnover of city school board members, and the passage of time worked against the new building.
Now Waverly Elementary/Middle stands as one of the first new schools to open in the city in recent decades — and the last until 2017, when dozens of new school buildings will be rebuilt and repaired under a $1 billion, 10-year facilities plan.
"It's really the miracle on 34th Street, because it's that important to this community," said Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who joined the Waverly fight on behalf of her district and as chair of the council's education committee.
She also called the school, which has opened and is planning a formal ceremony to celebrate, "the premiere act of the $1.1 billion plan."
In 2005, Clarke went to the district's headquarters to remind officials of the promise they'd made to the neighborhood, armed with a VCR tape of the school board meeting where they made it. Two years later, Clarke would welcome new schools CEO Andrés Alonso with a charge to make Waverly a priority, and he renewed the vow to the community.
Bob Heck, who has served on the school board since Alonso arrived in 2007, first became involved in the Waverly project as president of the PTA of Roland Park Elementary/Middle. He said the Waverly building represents more than a new facility.
"It represents a fulfillment of a promise for a brighter future for their children, and I'm glad the feet were held to the fire," Heck said. "With bureaucracy, things take time. But in this particular case, we righted a wrong."
De Blasio predicts victory in co-location suit
Sally Goldenberg , CapitalNewYork.com
March 9, 2014
-- Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday that he expects the city to prevail in a lawsuit filed by Public Advocate Letitia James, which would block charter school co-locations that were recently approved by his administration.
"We feel very good about the decision we made and the criteria we used, and if the public advocate wants to file a lawsuit that's her right, but we think our decision will stand in court," de Blasio told reporters, after promoting his universal pre-kindergarten plan at Heavenly Visions Church in the Bronx.
He said he has not seen the lawsuit filed by James, his successor as public advocate, who announced on Saturday night that she would proceed with the suit, after hosting a town-hall style forum to address the issue.
De Blasio recently approved 36 of 45 co-locations that were part of a flurry of co-location approvals at the end of the Bloomberg administration.
He allowed 14 of 17 charter school plans to move forward, with all three of the denials affecting Success Academy, which is run by the outspoken charter advocate Eva Moskowitz.
Moskowitz was recently joined by Governor Andrew Cuomo at a rally for charter schools in Albany, on the same day de Blasio visited the capital to push for a tax to fund universal pre-kindergarten programs.
De Blasio has been criticized by both sides of the charter-school debate: Cuomo and Moskowitz rallied before a crowd of several thousand, who criticized his decision to block the Success co-locations.
But some of de Blasio's allies on the left, including James and some members of the City Council, are upset over his decision to allow most of the charter school co-locations to move forward.
Planning Board passes schools capital budget with caveat
Jon Meoli, The Baltimore Sun
March 7, 2014
-- The Baltimore County Planning Board on Thursday gave its stamp of approval to the school board's $56.2 million capital budget request for fiscal year 2015, though it attached a caveat to a controversial school construction plan approved in the budget.
In a memo to Baltimore County's Director of Budget and Finance Keith Dorsey, the Planning Board urged further discussions with stakeholders about the three-part central area elementary school overcrowding relief plan that, includes the closure of Halstead Academy in Hillendale.
The plan calls for Halstead's student population to be moved to a new school at the site of Loch Raven Elementary School, which has been closed for over three decades. The school plan also calls for the creation of a neighborhood boundary and a 189-seat addition for Cromwell Valley Magnet Elementary in Towson, as well as the renovation of Halstead for a future undetermined magnet use.
Several affected communities, including Loch Raven Village and Hillendale, have protested the plan saying they have not had ample opportunity to provide input. Since the plan first emerged, Baltimore County Public Schools has altered it slightly to accommodate community concerns — but area leaders say those alterations are not enough.
In the budget memo, the board expressed its concern about the school plan.
"Therefore, the Planning Board encourages the County Executive, Baltimore County Public Schools and the affected citizens [to] continue to meet and discuss the various proposals with the goal of reaching an agreement on a solution to resolve the overcrowding in the central corridor," the memo read.
Districts working to repair, replace aging schools
Juli McDonald, 22 WWLP News
March 7, 2014
-- The average school buildings in the United States are 44 years old, and here in the Pioneer Valley, they are slightly older than that.
Upgrades are happening, though. Seventeen percent of U.S. schools have renovations underway, and more than twice that many have plans for repairs within the next two years.
Recent and current Springfield projects include the new Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, a science wing at Central High School, a new Brookings School and renovations at the Dreyden Memorial School. Springfield Public Schools spokesperson Azell Cavaan told 22News that they have been working closely with the state to make updates.
“We are fortunate enough to have established a good relationship with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. They’re a government agency that was created about 10 years ago to specifically address the issue of school building renovation and the status of school buildings,” Cavaan said.
Prince George’s leaders push for additional state funds for schools
Jamie Anfenson-Comeau , Gazettle.net
March 7, 2014
-- Prince George’s school officials have urged state leaders to approve legislation that would provide additional money each year for school construction, helping to more quickly address the $2.3 billion backlog of school maintenance needs in the county.
“At the rate that we’re going right now, it will never be reduced to a manageable rate. There is so much facility need in our county, and our district, like other districts, has not been able to keep up. This gives us the best opportunity to accelerate the replacement, renovation, modernization of our facilities,” county schools CEO Kevin Maxwell told the House Appropriations Committee on March 6.
Maxwell, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and others testified on behalf of House Bill 1323, which would provide up to $20 million annually in additional state funding to counties with student populations of more than 100,000 and maintaining a AAA credit rating. Currently, only Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties have populations meeting the requirement.
The funds could be used toward school construction projects or the costs of debt service on construction bonds.
The funds would come from state gambling proceeds, and every state dollar would have to be matched by two dollars of county funding.
Last year, a similar proposal, with dollar-for-dollar city-state funding, was passed for Baltimore City Public Schools.
Several committee members asked why the “big three” counties should be singled out.
Condition of America's Public School Facilities in 2012-13
Debbie Alexander Laurie Lewis (Westat), National Center for Education Statistics
March 6, 2014
-- This report provides national estimates on the condition of public school facilities. The study presented in this report collected information about the condition of public school facilities in the 2012-13 school year.
Ky. House panel defeats bill seeking to exempt school projects from prevailing wage
The Associated Press, Daily Reporter
March 6, 2014
-- A Kentucky House committee has defeated a bill that would have exempted school construction projects from the state's prevailing wage law.
The proposal was sponsored by several Republicans. The measure was rejected by the Democratic-led House Labor and Industry Committee on Thursday.
The state's prevailing wage law requires governments in Kentucky to pay union scale wages on construction projects.
The bill would have excluded the construction of any elementary, secondary or postsecondary education building from the law.
Supporters of the bill said it would save money on school construction projects.
The bill's opponents said the prevailing wage makes sure construction workers receive a "livable income." They said that weakening the prevailing wage would shrink the middle class and reduce incomes for some workers.
Norfolk should close three schools, report says
Cherise M. Newsome
March 6, 2014
-- A consultant has recommended closing three schools and using the existing Lake Taylor High building as a career and technical school as the division grapples with declining enrollment.
But the School Board took no formal action on the final report Wednesday after a monthslong demographics study conducted by DeJong-Richter, an educational facilities planning firm, to improve building usage.
Norfolk Public Schools paid the company $190,000 to provide suggestions on how to decentralize impoverished schools as well as attract and retain more students.
The report recommended closing Lafayette-Winona Middle and another to-be-determined middle school along with Willoughby Elementary, whose students would feed into a new Ocean View Elementary. The division also should change grade levels at several elementary and middle schools and redraw attendance boundaries to mirror housing and population trends, the report said. Several schools would incorporate magnet-style specialty programs to promote school choice and increase socioeconomic diversity at impoverished schools. Lake Taylor had been slated for demolition, but the report recommends using the building for a career and technical school.
Minnesota Legislature: Task force presents ideas to even schools facilities funding
Christopher Magan, TwinCities.com
March 5, 2014
-- When a roof springs a leak in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, it typically gets fixed within 24 hours.
"And I don't mean a bucket under a ceiling tile to catch the drips," said Heather Nosan, a project manager for the district.
To fund the repair and replace the roof when needed, the district taps money raised through an alternative facilities levy.
Only 25 districts are part of the alternative facilities program that allows them to raise tax dollars without voter approval for school facilities. The rest have to dip into the general fund for sudden repairs or win voter approval of a tax request to pay for more costly infrastructure repairs.
Nosan was one of 22 members of the School Facilities Financing Working Group that spent the past six months outlining ways to fix that disparity. The task force summarized its proposals Tuesday at a joint meeting of the state House and Senate education finance committees.
"We can't have a system of financing where some districts have an advantage over others," said Robert Indihar, superintendent of Moose Lake schools and co-chair of the task force.
Next week, a bill incorporating some of the task force's recommendations is expected to go before the Senate Finance Committee. It includes putting $50 million in the 2015-16 budget for school facilities financing.
That's a start, but task force members told lawmakers Wednesday that it could take an estimated $300 million in new funding annually to make the way Minnesota pays for school facilities "adequate, equitable and sustainable."
School advocates say the current system is unbalanced, with only larger districts with aging buildings eligible for a reliable stream of revenue to address building maintenance. Districts in the alternative facilities funding program get about $298 per student more annually than districts not in the program, about $750,000 more annually for the average-sized district.
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