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


Five school districts sue Pierce County over building restrictions
-- DEBBIE CAFAZZO, The News Tribune

Washington: July 22, 2016 -- Five school districts have sued the county over land use decisions that the districts contend will limit their ability to serve students in burgeoning suburban areas of unincorporated Pierce County. The districts also charge that county rules are limiting certain special programs located in rural areas that attract students from cities and towns. The lawsuit was filed in Pierce County Superior Court Thursday by the Bethel, Eatonville, Franklin Pierce, Sumner and Tacoma school districts. The districts contend that a recent county ordinance would prohibit building new schools and forbid expansion of existing school facilities in county-designated rural areas — if those facilities also house students from urban areas. They say the ordinance interferes with the legal duties of school districts to build schools and determine instructional programs. Pierce County spokeswoman Libby Catalinich said county officials could not comment Friday. She said County Council members and County Executive Pat McCarthy were reviewing the legal issues with county attorneys.


UPDATE: Richwood High School and Middle School not reopening for class this fall
-- Staff Writer, WSAZ

West Virginia: July 21, 2016 -- he June 23 flood has forced Richwood High School and Middle School to begin the school year in portables. The Nicholas County Board of Education met Thursday night at a special public meeting to discuss contingency plans for the fast approaching school year. “We are in no way capable of making a statement or a determination as to what we will be doing with our schools,” said Nicholas Superintendent Donna Burge-Tetrick. “The final assessment has not been completed yet. There’s going to be studies. We don’t even have a flood plain manager.” Burge-Tetrick said the building of new schools remains a possibility, but the current buildings still could be salvaged. “We are bringing portables in, but that’s not because we’re closing, it’s because we’re waiting for final assessment,” she said. “We don’t know if we are going to meet or exceed that 50 percent value on the school. It would be premature for us to try to go in and bring contractors in.” The future of the schools is very much up in the air, said Burge-Tetrick.


More needs to be done to make schools safe, state superintendent says
-- Pat Maio |, EdSource

California: July 20, 2016 -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson told a group of school safety experts in Garden Grove that more needs to be done to keep violence from reaching school campuses in California. Speaking Wednesday at the annual Safe Schools conference, Torlakson said safety on school campuses remains a top priority, giving the state a grade of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the safest. “We are relatively safe,” Torlakson said. Torlakson’s remarks came during a summer when parts of the nation are convulsing over a wave of racially tinged shootings in such places as Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge. He said he would favor spending a portion of a $9 billion public education facilities bond initiative, Proposition 51 on the November ballot, on making security improvements to further safeguard the state’s 6 million students. “It’s our new reality in America,” said Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens. “No venue is entirely immune” from the rise in active shooters on school campuses and elsewhere. “I can’t say it won’t happen here anymore.”


Balancing the size of Watertown schools
-- Vekonda Luangaphy, Wicked Local Watertown

Massachusetts: July 20, 2016 -- With overcrowded classrooms, old infrastructure and a blossoming student population, Watertown officials are looking to revamp, renovate or replace most of the buildings in use in the Watertown Public Schools system to better serve the community. According to school committee estimates, each year, the town spends $500,000 to $600,000 in maintenance, repairs, and capital materials (like school furniture) on the school buildings. Steering Committee of Master Planning Design Process talks continued this week at the WPS Phillips Building with expansion and space management issues taking center stage. On Tuesday, July 19, Committee members reviewed preliminary designs of Watertown school buildings that were provided by representatives of the Symmes Maini & McKee Associates (SMMA) architecture firm. Discussions at the meeting about the possible changes made to the school buildings were based upon many factors such as increasing enrollment and space utilization, which led the steering committee to look into balancing the sizes of class sizes through redistricting. Prior to the meeting, committee members took a tour of the Watertown school buildings to familiarize themselves with the schools' facilities and assess its efficiency. At the meeting, committee members shared their feedback. Committee member and Watertown Director of Community Development & Planning Steven Magoon said the elementary schools needs gym-rooms and cafeteria expansions, the Middle School could use some building expansions, and the High School has underutilized spaces.


Summerlin school construction craze not because of student growth
-- Herb Jaffe, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada: July 20, 2016 -- One could easily assume that growth in Summerlin’s population has exploded after learning that three new schools, which will eventually accommodate more than 4,000 students, will be opened in the community within the next couple of years. Wrong assumption! After some reality checking, we also learned that what’s really going on is this: Both the state and the Clark County School District are playing catch-up, and these three schools, plus more than 30 others, are being planned for Southern Nevada in the short term to help relieve some of the worst school overcrowding in the country. No, Summerlin’s student population is not growing that rapidly. That’s not even close. Nor are homes in Summerlin being built and selling anywhere near that speedily. In fact, “the number of students entering the system this year in Summerlin is a tiny fraction of the number of seats the new schools will provide,” said Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations for The Howard Hughes Corp., the developer of Summerlin. But thanks to a school bonding bill that passed in the 2015 legislative session, with the weight of Gov. Brian Sandoval strongly behind it, construction of new schools has been unfrozen after almost a decade of inactivity.


Hart District Restructures Debt on $300M Bond Measure
-- Perry Smith, KHTS AM1220

California: July 20, 2016 -- “In November 2008, voters approved a $300 million school facilities general obligation bond for the construction of new school facilities and the improvement of existing facilities,” according to the district’s website. However, the construction of Castaic High School has hit a number of snags, most recently involving difficulties with the grading and permitting of the roads surrounding the site, as well as a costly lawsuit with the site’s neighbors. The lawsuit has since been settled. The William S. Hart Union High School District has restructured the financing of its Measure SA general obligation fund, saving Santa Clarita taxpayers $3.69 million. District officials likened their recent debt restructuring to the refinancing a home mortgage, with the move making the district able to lock in lower interest rates in order to lower its borrowing costs. Officials also noted that with a bond refunding, they can’t extend the repayment period of the debt. Property tax savings will benefit the community in 2017 through 2025 as a result of the refinancing. “The district is grateful for the support of local taxpayers and recognizes the importance of being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars,” said Erin Lillibridge, CFO for the Hart district. “Taking advantage of opportunities to reduce taxes for our community, while striving to provide the best education and school facilities possible for our students, is a priority for the Governing Board and administration of the district.” A portion of the outstanding bonds were eligible to be refunded, so the district strategically timed the issuance to take advantage of favorable interest rates and reduce existing tax rates within the community over the next nine years.


Hartford Moves Ahead With $100 Million Project for New Weaver High School
-- DAVID DESROCHES, WNPR

Connecticut: July 20, 2016 -- After years of being in limbo, a high school in North Hartford is finally on its way to getting a $100 million makeover. Three separate schools will be housed there, part of the city's efforts to deal with declining enrollment. For the last six years, Weaver High School has gone through nearly a half-dozen renovation plans. The latest one will be pulling students in from around the city to the north end, instead of focusing on those who live nearby. This has city school board member Robert Cotto, Jr. concerned. "I think people are feeling they're between a rock and a hard place," Cotto said. "I think there's a lot of misinformation as far as what's going on, and people were told this was the only plan you're going to get, and if you don't go along with this plan that we threw together, you're not going to get a new Weaver." Cotto was the only board member to vote against the plan, though he had previously approved "at least three or four" earlier ones. One earlier plan fell through because the school administration couldn't figure out which schools to relocate to Weaver.


Arlington: Parents Decry Speed of Site Decision
-- Vernon Miles, The Connection

Virginia: July 20, 2016 -- Just two weeks after Arlington County announced that it was planning on placing a temporary fire station on the future Wilson School site, the County Board unanimously voted to move forward with an agreement that would allow the fire station to occupy nearly half of the field space at the Wilson site until at least 2020. #According to the staff report, a two-phase construction of Rosslyn properties would add costs that make the project financially untenable. Given that the construction would demolish the existing Fire Station 10 at 1559 Wilson Boulevard before the new station would be built at the adjacent County-owned property, the county would need to construct a temporary fire station in the area. Of the nine sites considered, only the Wilson School site, the Rhodeside Green Park and the Holiday Inn site were publicly owned, within the appropriate General Land Use Plan designation, and within adequate response times to the call coverage area. The Holiday Inn site was deemed inadequately sized with problematic topography, leaving just the Wilson School site and Rhodeside Green Park. #The designation of the Wilson School site as the location for the temporary fire station hasn’t been firmly established. The County Board’s vote allows the Wilson School site to be selected only if no alternative location is found within 60 days. The board directed County Manager Mark Schwartz to begin a two-month study to review Wilson School site’s feasibility as a fire station in comparison to Rhodeside Green Park and the Holiday Inn site. The final decision on the fire station location will be made at the County Board’s September meeting.


State funding could shrink for Akron school construction
-- Colette Jenkins , Ohio.com

Ohio: July 19, 2016 -- Akron school and city officials could find themselves with less state funding to construct the city’s last new high school, based on a draft of a new 2021-2022 enrollment projection by the state. Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James broke the news to a crowd of nearly 200 people gathered Tuesday night at Kenmore High School to get information about the status of the plan to rebuild schools in the city. The meeting, hosted by the Akron Board of Education and Akron City Council, was the first in a series of four scheduled this week to seek community input. “The bottom line is instead of funding for 1,254 students, we are now looking at a number that has decreased to 1,215. The state is saying that we overbuilt for 368 middle school students and for 81 elementary students,” James said. “We are going to have to work with the state to see if our number will change the amount they will fund.” James, who saw the figures for the first time on Monday, presented five options being considered for configuring the district to incorporate one new high school that could be built using state funding. The board, city and Ohio Facilities Construction Commission have partnered since 2003 to renovate and construct buildings throughout the district. So far, 29 buildings are completed; two are under construction and two are being designed.


Two Barbour County schools to close following 2016-17 school year
-- Alex Wiederspiel, MetroNews

West Virginia: July 19, 2016 -- PHILIPPI, W.Va. — Despite protests from parents, the Barbour County Board of Education accepted a recommendation from Superintendent Jeff Woofter to close two elementary schools in Barbour County Monday evening. “Mt. Vernon and Volga combined have about four percent of our student population,” Woofter said. “And, unfortunately, due to the low enrollment and our funding, we had to have combined grades at both of those schools, which isn’t in the best interest of kids.” Mt. Vernon ended the year with 57 students. Volga-Century had 37 students. Those numbers were expected to decrease again down from 94 students between the two schools to 88 students. The move to close Mt. Vernon Elementary School and Volga-Century Elementary School will save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Woofter said the move had far more to do with academics. “We believe financially it’ll be at least $390,000 per year, but the financial consideration wasn’t the main consideration in this case,” Woofter said. Classrooms were combined for first and second grade students and third and fourth grade students at the schools.

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