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


How Prop. 51 school bond could freeze out poorer districts
-- Jessica Calefati, CALmatters, San Francisco Chronicle

California: November 26, 2016 -- It’s tough for California voters to say “no” to more money for school construction. They almost always approve state bond requests, and this month they passed a $9 billion package that backers promised would help pay for repairs and upgrades needed to preserve students’ access to safe, modern classrooms. Unlike previous bonds, however, Proposition 51 was placed on the ballot not by lawmakers, but by developers looking out for their own interests. Its approval locks in an outdated system that was designed for a time when the student population was growing, and its application process may limit poor districts’ chances of claiming their fair share of the money. Instead of prioritizing projects for needy communities, the state will dole out these bond proceeds the way it always has: on a first-come, first-served basis. Scores of well-off districts are already in line, and small, impoverished ones have no one in their corner helping them navigate the complicated application process. That means some worthy repair projects may never see a dime.


Bozeman school construction projects are right on track
-- Gail Schontzler, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Montana: November 26, 2016 -- Major construction projects to renovate Hawthorne Elementary School and expand Sacajawea Middle School are “right on track,” says the school building chief. Todd Swinehart, Bozeman School District facilities director, says he has been very pleased with the team effort by the construction contractors, Dick Anderson and Martel, and the architects, Comma Q and A&E. “It always complicates things when you’re working in occupied schools,” Swinehart said. Hawthorne School on North Rouse Avenue, one of Bozeman’s 1939 Fred Willson-designed school buildings, is about 40 percent through its renovation, Swinehart said. Bonds to pay for both the $5 million Hawthorne and $16 million Sacajawea projects were passed by voters. Hawthorne’s new two-story classroom wing is rising along Lamme Street. The new wing will replace portable classrooms that were supposed to be temporary but stayed in use for decades. The school will gain one additional classroom. The principal’s office has been moved to improve oversight of visitors entering the school.


Broward school district seeks federal oversight on $800 million bond spending
-- Caitlin R. McGlade, Sun Sentinel

Florida: November 26, 2016 -- The Broward County School Board is asking a federal agency to oversee its spending and is revising its contract policies as it begins making promised renovations under the $800 million bond program. The district plans to order staff to report possible waste, fraud and/or abuse to the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education. The agency investigates wrongdoing in the Florida education system, and its phone number will be clearly posted the district's website.


Western Alaska schools included on list of state maintenance priorities
-- Molly Dischner, The Bristol Bay Times

Alaska: November 25, 2016 -- The state education department has identified renovations to the Bristol Bay Borough School as a priority yet again, but whether or not any work is funded will depend on what the Legislature does next year. The education department is recommending $130.3 million in state funding for 16 school construction projects next year, and $156.7 million in state funding for 106 major school maintenance efforts projects. Bristol Bay Borough's school renovation is ranked third on the list of 106, and the department recommended $9.7 million in state funding for the effort. Last year the Bristol Bay Borough project also ranked third, on a slightly smaller list of projects. The work needed at the Naknek school includes energy efficiency improvements, and a variety of upgrades, including heating and roofing work. Last year, funding for the school renovations made it beyond the list and onto the governor's version of the state budget but ultimately $11 million to renovate the Bristol Bay Borough school was deleted from the Senate capital budget in mid-May, as discussions continued past the end of the regular session.


Mass. sees flurry of plans for pricey high schools
-- James Vaznis, The Boston Globe

Massachusetts: November 25, 2016 -- Eight years after a nearly $200 million high school in Newton shattered state spending records, several cities are pursuing school projects with even larger price tags — a reflection of how the state’s red-hot construction market is driving up costs. At least two projects are on track to exceed Newton North High School’s high-water mark by tens of millions of dollars: Somerville voters this month approved a $257 million reconstruction of its high school, and Waltham officials are exploring site options for a new high school that could cost $283 million. Meanwhile, Fall River and Lowell are in the early stages of developing plans to rebuild high schools with price tags expected to exceed $200 million. State and local officials stress that the high costs are not due to districts engaging in a game of one-upmanship to build Taj Mahal high schools. Most of the new projects do not include such pricey amenities as swimming pools, which prompted criticism in Newton.


Tornado shelters for new schools will be required in Fort Worth
-- Sandra Baker, Stateman

Texas: November 24, 2016 -- FORT WORTH Building new schools in Fort Worth could become significantly more expensive starting next year, when the city’s building code will likely start requiring storm shelters for students, teachers and staff. On Dec. 6, the City Council is expected to adopt an updated building code that’s based on the 2015 International Building Code and the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommendation that all new schools with 50 or more students and staff have a designated storm shelter. The new provision will also apply to the city when it builds first responder facilities such as police, fire and emergency operation centers. The shelter must be able to withstand winds in excess of 250 miles per hour, or an EF-4 rated tornado, according to the code.


Officials told Philadelphia schools need $5 billion in repairs
-- Kristen Graham, Philly.com

Pennsylvania: November 22, 2016 -- One by one, the dignitaries trooped into the computer lab at Overbrook High School - a room full of dusty desktops at least a decade old that await replacement. Earlier, they had peered inside two nonfunctioning science labs, where trash sat inside lab sinks and water issues were common. The Monday tour of Overbrook, a once-grand structure known as "the Castle on the Hill," was meant to give lawmakers who will distribute school-facilities money in Pennsylvania a grounding in just how vast the Philadelphia School District's capital needs are. It would cost $5 billion to fully meet city schools' repair needs, officials told the state senators, representatives, and other members of the state PlanCon Advisory Committee who gathered at Overbrook on Monday to hear testimony and ask questions. Just one-third of district schools are considered in good condition, said Fran Burns, the district's chief operating officer. The average city school is 70 years old, and the district is coping with years of deferred maintenance.


Two schools: 15 miles and worlds apart
-- AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT, newsworks

Pennsylvania: November 22, 2016 -- Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and Overbrook High School in Philadelphia are a mere 15 miles from each other. But they’re worlds apart. Take the matter of water — that most basic element of human life. Upper Dublin's new high school, finished in 2012, features an 18-lane swimming pool with two spring-diving boards and a movable bulkhead that allows the pool to be configured for swim meets and water polo matches. The natatorium even has its own air-filtration system so the smell of chlorine doesn’t seep into the surrounding hallways or waft in the way of enjoying the tasteful mosaic that adorns the entryway to the facility. At Overbrook — built in the 1920s — there is no pool. The comprehensive high school in West Philadelphia does have water, but it isn’t always in the right place or in the right state. Testing recently revealed six outlets with lead levels above the school district’s minimum threshold for lead content. Principal Yvette Jackson hopes to convert an abandoned room into a badly needed science lab, but can’t yet because the room has a drainage problem. The space fell into disrepair because budget cuts restricted the number of science teachers at Overbrook — and thus the number of science labs it could faithfully use. Democratic state Sen. Vincent Hughes, who represents the communities surrounding Upper Dublin and Overbrook, toured both schools Monday to hammer home what he sees as the state’s funding inequities. “It breaks my heart,” he said.


Greater Clark County Schools makes third attempt to secure funding for construction
-- Gil Corsey, WDRB.com

Kentucky: November 22, 2016 -- LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Is the third time the charm? The stage is set for a signature showdown in Greater Clark County Schools as the district tries for a third time to get a construction project approved. It's a $22 million fight for funding, with kids and taxpayers in the balance. At Northaven Elementary School, geography, mathematics and the history of Thanksgiving are being taught simultaneously in three different classrooms -- and if student Jenna Kelley listens closely, she can hear all three at the same time. That's because of open doors -- and a lack of walls. "This is priority Number One: just taking care of the open concept buildings and getting doors and walls," explained Laura Morris, principal of Northaven Elementary School. About 100 third graders are packed into three different classrooms at the school -- but those classrooms are only walled off by bookshelves. There's not a door separating any of them. The effort to close the "open" concept at Northaven Elementary School, Charlestown Middle School and River Valley Middle School is not just about noise. School leaders say it's about kids' safety. "I don't like when it's open because if we do have an intruder, they can just come in," Jenna.


District has $447.7 million in unfunded construction needs
-- Madison Fantozzi, The Ledger

Florida: November 19, 2016 -- BARTOW — The Polk County School Board members had some concerns when they got a look at the district's 2016-2021 capital work plan. District officials identified $447.7 million in unfunded new construction needed to support the projected student enrollment over the next 10 years. In addition, there are $74 million in unfunded major renovation and repair projects. "What happens if the (half-cent) sales tax (for capital projects) is not renewed?" School Board member Lynn Wilson asked during last week's work session. "Do we have a plan?" "We're praying," said Rob Davis, interim associate superintendent of operations. More than $420 million generated by the sales tax since 2004 has paid for the construction of schools, extra classrooms and parking lots, among other needs. If the tax, which expires in January 2019, is not renewed in the 2018 general election, the School District will miss out on about $40 million a year. The district plans to spend more than $23 million in sales tax money on maintenance projects and more than $22 million in sales tax money on new construction in the five-year plan. The new construction is planned for Bartow High School, which is in the early stages of master planning. "Bartow has been very patient as it has watched the rest of the county get master plans," School Board member Hazel Sellers said in an October work session. "I'm hopeful about the sales tax renewing ... and thankful we will have a plan going once we get that money."

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