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

Greenbelt city council votes no on cell towers on school property
-- Kate Ryan, WTOP

Maryland: November 25, 2014 -- Can't get a decent cell phone signal in parts of Greenbelt? It could be due to the scarcity of cell phone towers in the municipality but council member Rodney Roberts doesn't mind. "Our civilization lived a long, long time, and survived quite well without cell phones." When it comes to having cell phone reception, Roberts said, "It's not a requirement of life." On Monday, the members of the Greenbelt City Council voted to make their feelings on putting cell towers on school properties clear: They are opposed. And they're not alone. Groups from Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George's counties have formed to prevent the construction of cell towers near schools. The council voted to draft letters to the Prince George's County board of education and Superintendent Dr. Kevin Maxwell asking for greater transparency on the site selection for cell towers in the city of Greenbelt. As the members hashed about the language of their proposal, council member Edward Putens said, "I want to know if there's any plans or any leases or anything that has to do with a Greenbelt school." A contract to construct cell towers on as many as 70 public school properties was approved in 2011, when the Prince George's County schools partnered with Milestone Communications, but Greenbelt council members say there was little to no transparency or opportunity for public input.

Federally run Indian schools can't escape tainted legacy; schools among nation's lowest
-- KIMBERLY HEFLING Associated Press, Daily Reporter

National: November 24, 2014 -- WINSLOW, Arizona — On a desert outpost miles from the closest paved road, Navajo students at the Little Singer Community School gleefully taste traditional fry bread during the school's heritage week. "It reminds us of the Native American people a long time ago," says a smiling 9-year-old, Arissa Chee. The cheer comes in the midst of dire surroundings: Little Singer, like so many of the 183 Indian schools overseen by the federal government, is verging on decrepit. The school, which serves 81 students, consists of a cluster of rundown classroom buildings containing asbestos, radon, mice, mold and flimsy outside door locks. The newest building, a large, white monolithic dome that is nearly 20 years old, houses the gym. On a recent day, students carried chairs above their heads while they changed classes, so they would have a place to sit. These are schools, says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose department is responsible for them, "that you or I would not feel good sending our kids to, and I don't feel good sending Indian kids there, either." Federally owned schools for Native Americans on reservations are marked by remoteness, extreme poverty and few construction dollars.

Problems with an old school - a Student's Perspective
-- Jeremiah Munson , Fillmore County Journal

Minnesota: November 24, 2014 -- The Rushford-Peterson School District just passed their new school referendum this past election. Many members of the community had heard different reasons for why the referendum should be passed but perhaps could not fully grasp the need. Some of the people who can appreciate this decision the most, however, are the students. Teachers can also recognize it being in the school as much as they are, but students, who navigate more throughout the school, know the full range of problems in the building. A current student in the high school would start out their day on the old, creaky, wooden floors and squeeze their school materials into their cramped locker. The student would then go to their classes, which are either extremely hot in the summer or equally cold in the winter, due to poor air conditioning and heating. If you have a class on a different floor than your locker, then you have to maneuver your way up or down the stair cases. One of the stairways is not quite wide enough to fit two people going in opposite directions. If one is handicapped and cannot use the stairs, be careful as at least one of the elevators has been known to get stuck on occasion. When it is time for lunch they would head to the cafeteria which also doubles as the elementary gymnasium. When lunch is done the student would then go back to classes and have to deal with drafty windows and excessive heat/cold. Between their classes, they would have to navigate the narrow hallways to get to and from class on time. If the student is in band, choir, or the play, during a performance they would have to ignore the loud refrigerator that would turn on with a squeal, run noisily for a while, and then turn back off. The refrigerators are on the stage because there is not enough room for them in the small kitchen.

Parents petition Oakland to reopen elementary school
-- Doug Oakley , Oakland Tribune

California: November 23, 2014 -- OAKLAND -- A baby boom and influx of families to a West Oakland neighborhood has residents there pushing the school district to reopen Santa Fe Elementary School, which was closed in 2012 amid budget problems. "We ran a survey last spring and came back with some pretty big numbers as far as babies and children in the area," said Megan Low, a parent and member of the Santa Fe Community Association. "A lot of new families are coming into our neighborhood from San Francisco where they are getting priced out of housing." Santa Fe Elementary is on 54th Street between Adeline and Market streets. It's currently being used by the Emeryville school district while it builds a new K-12 school. Families in the Santa Fe area who want a school nearby now have to go more than a mile away to either Sankofa Academy on Shattuck Avenue or Emerson Elementary on Lawton Avenue. Both those schools require kids in the Santa Fe area to cross busy streets like Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Shattuck and Telegraph avenues to get to them. On Thursday night about 100 residents and their children met with Superintendent Antwan Wilson to show him data they collected on the increase in children in the area and to tell him about their hardships in getting to other schools. "I am open and I appreciate your passion," Wilson said. "And I am impressed with your thoughtfulness and enthusiasm." Wilson told the crowd they can partner with Oakland educators to formally petition the school district to start a new school in a new process he will unveil in late February.

As EPISD considers closing schools, other districts offer lessons
-- Lindsey Anderson, El Paso Times

Texas: November 23, 2014 -- Alamo Elementary School's hallways are cold and quiet, the windows boarded up and the chain-link fence padlocked — it's a fate several schools in the El Paso Independent School District might face. The district, like others around the country, is considering downsizing because of plummeting student enrollment and the high costs of keeping up old buildings. Public anxiety is already churning as more than a dozen schools are on EPISD's list for possible closure or consolidation. The fate of the few schools EPISD has closed in recent years and the experiences of districts across the country offer a glimpse of what could happen if El Paso decides to shut several schools in the coming years. Closing schools saves money on future maintenance and utilities, but hidden costs often mean profits are smaller than districts expected, according to national studies on the issue. Selling vacant schools has also proved difficult for many districts across the country, whose old, immense buildings aren't easily converted into something else, the studies found.

Fairbanks schools make progress in upgrading technology
-- Weston Morrow,

Alaska: November 23, 2014 -- FAIRBANKS — As the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board holds ambitious technology programs in its sights, some district employees are working nights and holidays to upgrade school infrastructure to make sure it’s ready to handle the increased technological load. During the past several years, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has rolled out technology improvements including increases in the number of digital devices in schools and its inter-school distance delivery program. The projects are part of a movement some board members think will help bring the district into the future. Before the district can consider putting every student on its network, it must upgrade its connectivity inside its schools. To do so, administrators have piggybacked on funding provided by the Legislature to make security improvements in schools. The security improvements in schools included upgrading systems such as schools’ video surveillance, intercoms and key fobs. Many of the security improvements require facilities staff to open ceilings and run additional cable. While in there, administrators figured they might as well run cable for other upgrades, Facilities Management Director Dave Norum said.

Schools vying for state construction grants
-- Amelia Pak-Harvey,

Massachusetts: November 22, 2014 -- Last week in Mrs. Desrochers' third-grade class at Tewksbury's North Street Elementary School, rain leaked in through the Plexiglas windows, forcing the students to move to the library. The week before that, students noticed that an area of the floor was hot. It turned out to be a problem with the pipes, which construction workers had to fix after jackhammering the floor. These are just some of the issues at the North Street school, a building over 62 years old. Last year, a leaky roof meant teachers had to put buckets throughout their classrooms to catch falling water. Although $100,000 from the town granted the school a new section of roof, there are still heating and plumbing issues that come with its age. Devoted parents help out with painting and other aesthetics through a Parent Beautification Committee, but a completely fresh start is the ideal, officials say. "The whole community has been hoping for years for a new school," said Principal Angela Kimble.

Point Pleasant Schools Receive $144K From State To Help With Security Cameras
-- Karen Wall, Point Pleasant Patch

New Jersey: November 21, 2014 -- Grants totaling $144,412 have been awarded to the Point Pleasant School District to help it install security cameras, the state Schools Development Authority announced Friday. The grants, through the SDA’s Regular Operating District grant program, will help the district install security cameras at all four schools -- Point Pleasant High School, Memorial Middle School, Nellie Bennett Elementary School and Ocean Road Elementary School, according to a news release from the SDA. The security camera projects have a total estimated cost of $361,031; the grant funding means the district is paying $216,619 of its own funds, the release states. In May 2013, Gov. Chris Christie announced the largest single grant offering in the program’s history, making approximately half a billion dollars in funding available for projects throughout the state’s 559 regular operating districts and 21 county vocational technical school districts across New Jersey. The Department of Education, who determines the selection of school projects to receive grant funds, has approved more than 1,600 ROD Grant projects in 335 school districts throughout the state for this allocation. Between state and local contributions, the total project costs of the eligible projects are estimated to exceed $1.2 billion, representing significant benefit not only to the children served by the state’s public schools but also to the economy and construction industry as this important work advances.

South Washington school board backs $180M expansion plan
-- Christopher Magan,

Minnesota: November 21, 2014 -- South Washington County school board members unanimously backed a long-range facilities plan Thursday that will likely result in a fall 2015 bond referendum and school expansions districtwide. The district of 17,600 students expects as many as 2,600 more students over the next decade thanks to residential construction planned mostly in Woodbury and Cottage Grove. A long-range facilities task force started meeting in April to figure out how to handle that growth. The recommendations include about $180 million worth of work. Highlights include expansions at schools across the district, construction of a new middle school, a new home for the Spanish immersion program as well as school boundary changes. Those proposed boundary changes brought upset parents to the board's regular meeting Thursday, where the plans were approved. The proposed relocation of the district's programs for children with autism spectrum disorders was of particular concern because of the impact change could have on those students. Ron Kath, board chair, said he understood the concerns of parents about how the plans could affect their children. He reminded residents that each of the district's schools presents unique opportunities for students. "For me, it is not about the brick and mortar or the location of the school, but it's about the people in the school," Kath said.

Planned school-YMCA called 'transformative'
-- CYNTHIA SEWELL, Idaho Statesman

Idaho: November 21, 2014 -- Marti Hill and Dixie Cook long envisioned turning part of their South Meridian family farm into a community park. The Treasure Valley YMCA has envisioned building a new facility and aquatics center in that area. The West Ada School District needs a new elementary school in the same part of town. And the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has a long and storied tradition of supporting education and community projects. Earlier this year, in a shop on the Hill family farm, these groups came together with the idea of collaborating on a project that would accomplish all of these needs and wants. On Thursday, the Albertson Foundation and Hill family took the first steps to tip the project from dream to reality: a $4 million donation from the foundation and a 22-acre land donation from the family. "Dixie and Marti have set into a motion a transformative project," Jamie MacMillan, president of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, said at a news conference in the same shop where the project was conceived. "This community will be blessed with a wonderful place to play, to learn and to grow at their family YMCA, and their city park and a new elementary school."

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