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

School district lays out $150 million tentative 10-year plan for capital projects
-- JAKE MARTIN, The St. Augustine Record

Florida: August 21, 2015 -- The St. Johns County School District released a tentative list of capital projects totaling $150 million to potentially be funded over the next 10 years. Tim Forson, deputy superintendent of operations, called it a “high-needs list,” although not necessarily a complete list. “What we know today is not what we might know five years from now or even three years from now,” he said. The projects outlined include $106 million for three new K-8 academies, one elementary school and two school expansions. Forson said many of the items on the list will be necessary regardless of whether a ½-cent sales tax increase is approved by voters on Nov. 3. “What it means is either some of these would be delayed or some of these would displace other projects,” he said. “Some may not happen at all.” Demands of high growth over several years have resulted in cases of deferred maintenance and site improvements at older schools. About $14 million in maintenance projects for existing facilities were included in the list.

Gas explosion at NYC high school leaves several injured
-- Ben Feuerherd, C.J. Sullivan and Natalie Musumeci, New York Post

New York: August 20, 2015 -- A thunderous gas explosion rocked a Manhattan high school building Thursday night, injuring three contractors – one critically – who were working to fix up the sixth floor science lab, authorities said. The blast happened at the former John F. Kennedy High School in Marble Hill at around 8:10 p.m. Mayor de Blasio, who showed up at the scene with FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, called it a “shocking scene.” “The sixth floor had tremendous damage. There will be a thorough investigation,” de Blasio said. The explosion ripped through the fourth, fifth and sixth floors, blowing out windows and causing extensive damage. An official who spoke to the injured workers said “a contractor was doing work with a blow torch and must have hit a gas line.”

Iowa City schools phase out modular classrooms as district grows
-- Mark Carlson,

Iowa: August 20, 2015 -- IOWA CITY — Leaders with the Iowa City Community School District hope to phase out all modular classrooms by the year 2023. They took a step toward that goal Thursday as leaders cut the ribbon at Alexander Elementary on Sycamore Street in Iowa City. “We are growing and we’re struggling to keep up in terms of new classroom space,” said superintendent Steve Murley. The new elementary school will be home to nearly 400 students during the upcoming school year, with the capacity to add over 100 more students down the road. The opening of Alexander Elementary means modular, or temporary, classrooms at Grant Wood will no longer be necessary. The district has a total of 33 modular buildings at over a dozen schools, plus a 10-plex complete with classrooms, restrooms and lockers. Murley said there are several issues with operating modular buildings, including increased costs to operate. Murley also noted that with the exception of the 10-plex, none of the buildings have running water, so students must leave them, often in inclement weather, just to use the restroom.

There are 45 fracked wells within 2 miles of my daughter's school
-- Opinion - Rodrigo Romo, theguardian

California: August 20, 2015 -- very morning, I send my daughters off to school with a kiss on the cheek and a heavy heart. School is supposed to be a safe and supportive environment where children are able to learn without worrying about threats to their health. Unfortunately, this is not the case in my hometown of Shafter, California. California state laws have allowed oil companies to hydraulically fracture oil wells perilously close to my daughters’ schools, exposing them to dangerous air toxins and putting their health and safety at risk on a daily basis. Earlier this summer, two weeks after California’s first-ever hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, regulations went into effect, my family filed a lawsuit against Governor Jerry Brown and California Oil and Gas Supervisor Steve Bohlen. We are challenging the regulations for illegally discriminating against students of color by permitting wells that are disproportionately close to the schools they attend. Fracking is a process used to extract oil from the ground that involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and hundreds of different chemicals into the ground at very high pressures to fracture the rock and release oil. There are 45 fracked wells within a mile and a half of my daughter’s junior high school. At Sequoia Elementary School, which she attended for years, there are three separate fracked wells within a half-mile of the school, and one that is just 1,200 feet from the school.

New bill would protect school contractors’ payments
-- DAN WALTERS, The Sacramento Bee

California: August 19, 2015 -- A newly amended bill would allow contractors whose “lease-leaseback” school construction agreements are declared illegal to keep their payments. The legislation is aimed at counteracting the impacts of a state appellate court decision in June that a construction contract issued by Fresno Unified School District violated both competitive bidding and conflict-of-interest statutes. Fresno Unified is now appealing to the state Supreme Court but contractors who made similar deals with other districts have expressed concern that should the ruling hold, they could be required to return money paid by the districts under the state’s “disgorgement” law. Ever since the decision came down, contractor lobbyists have been circulating potential measures to either overturn the ruling or counter its effects. Late Tuesday, Assembly Bill 975, which had been languishing in the Senate Education Committee, was shifted from Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, to Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco and completely changed. Its contents were stripped out and a new bill was substituted, declaring that a contractor who worked “in good faith” on school projects, even if the contract was later found to be invalid, “shall be entitled to be paid…”

WCPS needs county help to fund capital projects
-- Julie E. Greene,

Maryland: August 18, 2015 -- Washington County Public Schools officials said Tuesday that they plan to ask the county commissioners for financial support for large school projectssuch as replacing aging roofs and heating and air-conditioning systems. The county's current 10-year capital improvement plan shows zero dollars for systemic or "capital maintenance" projects for the school system, not only for this fiscal year but through at least the next five fiscal years. Debra Murray, the county's chief financial officer, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that she doubts the county will have money this fiscal year for such projects. The zeroes for future years are because county officials don't yet know what funds will be available or what issues might arise, Murray said. If money is available, and the commissioners want to shift it to systemic school projects, that will be done, she said.

Broward schools OK capital budget, but priorities a matter of debate
-- Scott Travis, Sun Sentinel

Florida: August 18, 2015 -- Broward County schools dealt with a new type of problem Tuesday: how to spend an extra $154 million in capital funds. Following a four-hour meeting, board members voted to tentatively approve the $2.6 billion capital budget. But they withheld $12 million worth of new buses. They will decide later whether to fund those or other priorities, such as a cafeteria at Stranahan High in Fort Lauderdale. .About $18 million in renovations are planned at Stranahan, but a cafeteria is not part of that. Stranahan supporters attended the hearing to lobby for some of the new money available, The deteriorating school was slated to be rebuilt, but the project was cut during the recession, supporters say. The roof often leaks, the heat doesn't work and the air conditioning is erratic. The bond work isn't slated to start until June, but some say emergency repairs are needed now. "It's an extreme example of what happens when work is deferred," education advocate Mary Fertig said. "You have new dollars now available. We're asking you to honor commitments you made."

Wake County to add 13 new schools, reassign students
-- Adam Owens,

North Carolina: August 18, 2015 -- The Wake County Public School System plans to open 13 new schools over the next three years, officials said Tuesday. Laura Evans, the district’s senior director of student assignment, said the expansion is needed because more than 40,000 new students are projected to join the school system by 2024. In total, there will be eight new elementary schools, three new middle schools, and two new high schools. In order to address overcrowding, school officials said they have established a plan to reassign students to different schools. District officials said grandfather clauses are available for some students assigned to new schools. Rising fourth- and fifth-grade students assigned to a new elementary school and rising eighth-grade students assigned to new middle schools are eligible to remain at their current school. Parents must provide transportation for these students.

Maryland poised to set record for statewide public school enrollment
-- Donna St. George, Washington Post

Maryland: August 18, 2015 -- Student enrollment in Maryland’s largest school district is expected to surge again during the coming school year, hitting a new high and helping to drive broader gains that could set a statewide record. Maryland education officials said Tuesday that if projected trends hold, the state could top 870,000 students for the first time. The enrollment spike comes as Montgomery County is forecasting that 156,514 students will attend classes during the school year that begins Aug. 31. That number includes 2,662 more students than last year, which would be the largest one-year uptick since 2000. “When you look at the numbers, it’s pretty stark,” said Montgomery Board of Education Vice President Michael Durso. “I think it exacerbates the issue of budget challenges and space and capacity. We’re just always trying to catch up.”

Nearly $70 million in New Schools Open in Wyoming
-- Anthony Hughes, Wyoming School Facilities Department

Wyoming: August 17, 2015 -- CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming will kick off its new school year with nearly $70 million in new educational facilities, according to the state’s School Facilities Director (SFD), Bill Panos. In recent months, new schools have opened in Green River, Greybull and Cheyenne, with others coming soon in Rock Springs and Casper, Panos said. “It’s an extraordinary achievement. Wyoming spends more on new school construction, per capita, than any other state in the country,” he said. Since the school facilities program began in 2002, the state has appropriated over $3.5 billion to build new schools and maintain existing ones in Wyoming’s 48 school districts. “We are fortunate to live in a state where both the governor and Legislature are committed to providing children with high quality educational facilities.” Panos commented.

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