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


Can a revamped Roosevelt High serve everyone in its gentrifying neighborhood?
-- Perry Stein, Washington Post

District of Columbia: August 21, 2016 -- When students arrive for their first day at Theodore Roosevelt High School on Monday, they will walk up a grand staircase surrounded by large, colonial columns and into the results of a $127 million renovation that includes an Olympic-size swimming pool. The restored 1932 building has a capacity of about 1,100 students; just 460 are enrolled at the long-struggling school in the District’s Petworth neighborhood. But Monday — the first day of class for most D.C. schools — marks a renewed city effort to transform Roosevelt into a high-achieving neighborhood school that parents from all demographics in the gentrifying area want to choose for their children. And it’s going to be a challenge: In 2012, there were 1,906 high school students living within Roosevelt’s boundaries, and just 301 of them attended the school, according to data from the 21st Century School Fund. In the 2014-2015 school year, no Roosevelt students met or exceeded expectations on math and English standardized tests linked to the Common Core state standards. Just 9 percent of students approached expectations, making it one of the lowest-performing high schools in the city.


Residential building boom pressures county schools
-- Cindy Huang, Capital Gazette

Maryland: August 20, 2016 -- When 81,000 county public school students set out for their classrooms this week, some will have to navigate more crowded hallways to get there. The system's student population is expected to grow 10 percent in the next decade, school officials said, as more families move to homes in the area and more students shift from private to public schools. The Arundel, Glen Burnie, Meade and Northeast feeder systems will see enrollment booms from residential construction, they said. The county code bars land development for new homes in areas where local schools are projected to reach 100 percent of capacity in three years. But the homes can be built if land has been previously approved for development. About 33 county schools will be over capacity by around 2018, said Alex Szachnowicz, the school system's chief operating officer.


Underestimated project costs force Missouri district to put school groundbreaking on hold
-- Mike Kennedy, American School & University

Missouri: August 19, 2016 -- The Chillicothe (Mo.) R-2 School District has delayed construction of a new school after discovering that the cost estimates of the project were $2 million to $3 million too low. The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune reports that the district had hoped to break ground by Sept. 1 on a facility to house students from preschool through first grade. But because the site selected for the school has changed—the district has chosen an area north of the high school instead of a location near the middle school—site preparation costs are significantly higher. The increase was not included in the plans developed by the district’s architect, Hollis + Miller. “We used the number they provided us when we went out to the voters,” says Superintendent Roger Barnes.


Don't eat produce from any Portland school garden, officials warn
-- Betsy Hammond, oregon Live

Oregon: August 19, 2016 -- Portland Public Schools warned employees and families Friday not to eat produce from any school garden, citing guidance from the Oregon Health Authority. Fruits and vegetables grown on school grounds and watered with water from a school district spigot could contain dangerous levels of lead, according to Courtney Westling, the district's interim chief of community involvement and public affairs. According to the Oregon Health Authority, lead can be absorbed by plants and accumulate in soil, so water containing lead above 15 parts per billion should not be used for irrigating or watering garden plants. Lead from flaking lead paint as well as from lead-contaminated water can find a pathway into garden produce. Portland Public Schools completed water quality tests at every school fountain and fixture this summer and found excessive lead in at least one water source, and more often at dozens of water fountains and sinks, at all 88 schools sampled. At numerous schools, some of the highest lead readings were found at outdoor spigots.


Montebello Unified sues over asbestos uncovered by lighting installation
-- City News Service, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

California: August 19, 2016 -- LOS ANGELES — The Montebello Unified School District is collectively suing two companies for $3.5 million, alleging that untrained workers spread asbestos-containing materials throughout various schools in 2015 while work was being done to install energy-efficient lighting. The MUSD’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as defendants Industry-based Evergreen Energy Solutions LLC and Enveniam LLC, which is headquartered in Roswell, Georgia. Representatives for the two companies did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the suit, which alleges negligence, breach of contract and breach of an implied covenant to perform work in a competent manner. The suit filed Tuesday states that the MUSD and the two firms entered a contract in February 2015 for Evergreen to “consult and procure” and for Enveniam to install energy-efficient lighting at Montebello Intermediate School, Montebello Gardens Elementary School and Bell Gardens High School. The MUSD agreed to pay $2 million, the suit states. Before work began, the parties met in April 2015 and discussed fireproofing materials that contained asbestos at Montebello Intermediate, Bell Gardens High and the district office, according to the complaint. The meeting highlighted that it was “critical that the contractor had the requisite eight hours of asbestos-awareness training at a minimum,” the complaint states.


Districts must report lead test results within 5 days under new state rules
-- Staff Writer, KATU

Oregon: August 18, 2016 -- SALEM, Ore. – Schools in Oregon have new rules for lead testing that the state says will keep students safe from exposure. Districts are now required to report findings of tests for lead or other environmental health factors within five days of when they receive the results. Governor Brown said the new testing rules are a “swift response” to the numerous reports of high lead levels in Oregon schools, and the investigation into how Portland Public Schools handled test results. “Children and families – as well as educators – must be assured of safe and healthy school facilities,” Governor Kate Brown said. "That's why I directed state agencies to work together with school officials to ensure that local school districts address environmental health factors, such as lead in drinking water and paint. Additionally, new reporting requirements for districts ensure greater accountability and transparency at the local level, so parents, educators, and policymakers receive clear and current information about the state of their school facilities.”


School modernization project dispute leads to war of words
-- Meaghan M. McDermott, Democrat & Chronicle

New York: August 17, 2016 -- A decision by the board overseeing Rochester's $1.3 billion schools modernization project to scuttle an agreement to work with local labor unions continues to reveal fractures among City Council, the City School District Board of Education and the Warren administration. On Wednesday, City Councilwoman Molly Clifford and three of her colleagues called out Mayor Lovely Warren for refusing to make members of the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board available to explain why they'd voted to kill the project labor agreement that spelled out requirements for union hiring, set goals for putting minority and women-owned firms to work and established wage and other rules for the construction project. The move, coming just weeks after City Council approved $32 million to support Phase II of the modernization project — with an understanding the project labor agreement (PLA) would be in place — was especially troubling, Clifford said. "We are concerned that this decision may lead to slowdowns in the project, costing taxpayers more money and keeping students out of their home schools longer than necessary," Clifford said in her essay for the Democrat and Chronicle.


USD 259 to complete 17 years of bond projects
-- Molly Brewer, ksn.com

Kansas: August 17, 2016 -- WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – While kids get ready to head back to school, USD 259 is prepares for a big milestone. For the first time in more than a decade, all of the district’s bond issue projects will be finished. The completion of Robinson Middle School this spring will be the end of 17 years of bond project construction. The bond issue projects were designed to last a long time, according to Wendy Johnson, division director for marketing and communications at Wichita Public Schools. Some of those projects ranged from entirely new schools, to adding air conditioning and storm shelters to existing buildings. Johnson says they invested in outlying neighborhoods, like the northeast part of town and the southeast part of town where they saw the most potential for growth. But they also rebuilt a number of older schools along the I-35 corridor through the central part of Wichita. The community asked for neighborhood schools and that’s what the district aimed to provide, Johnson said.


Summer session: Improved air quality, new flooring, roof for Cumberland schools
-- The Valley Breeze

Rhode Island: August 17, 2016 -- CUMBERLAND – Construction workers doing $4.2 million in upgrades to the two middle schools and Ashton Elementary School this summer – including a new roof, ventilation and energy management systems and flooring – were beginning to wrap up this week in anticipation of students returning in two weeks. Alex Prignano, the school district’s business manager, released a lengthy list that accounts for most of the spending of a $4.9 million bond approved in 2015 by the Rhode Island Department of Education. More than $500,000 of the bond had been spent during the previous summer, he noted, now leaving $50,000 in the account for cleanup and finishing touches, after this summer’s work, Prignano said. Returning students will see an $800,000 new roof at McCourt Middle School. Air quality should be improved at both middle schools, with more than $1 million invested in ventilators at McCourt and North Cumberland Middle. And flooring projects that saw asbestos tiles ripped up and replaced at the three schools consumed more than $1.2 million, including moisture control flooring for the lower level of NCMS.


Work begins to banish the bats at Terre Haute middle school
-- Sue Loughlin, Tribune-Star

Indiana: August 17, 2016 -- The fuzzy, flying mammals are getting evicted from their “bat cave.” Work began Wednesday to remove bats from Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute as health officials and university bat experts gathered to count the winged mammals. Sarah Scott has a bat problem, and the school building was closed and its students transported to Riley Elementary while the problem is addressed. “We’re probably looking at 200 man-hours of work,” said Will Langman, owner of Langman’s Wildlife, which is doing the bat removal. The problem stems from small gaps between the brick and metal flashing along the school’s roof line; those small gaps have allowed bats to enter the building. Langman’s will seal the area between the flashing and brick all the way around the building and then install “excluders,” or a way for bats to exit, but they won’t be able to get back in. The process does not involve trapping or touching the bats. Once the bats are out, the last openings are sealed. “You have to seal everything around the building a bat could remotely get into,” Langman said. There is more than one entry point. Four staff will work four days to complete the work — including sealing and installation of excluders — by the end of the week, as long as weather cooperates.

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