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

San Diego Unified Receives $34 Million Military Grant to Upgrade 2 Schools
-- ALEXANDER NGUYEN , Times of San Diego

California: July 18, 2014 -- A $34 million grant from the U.S. Defense Department will allow the San Diego Unified School District to renovate two elementary schools that serve the Murphy Canyon Navy housing complex, the district announced Friday. The money will pay for permanent, state-of-the-art classrooms at Hancock and Miller elementary schools in Tierrasanta. “This generous grant from the Department of Defense will help ensure that the students at Miller and Hancock elementary schools receive a world- class education in a state-of-the art learning environment,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said. The improvements will include renovation of existing classrooms, replacement of aging portables with single-story permanent classrooms; enhancement of campus security, as well as fire and emergency safety systems; heating, ventilation and air conditioning work; and replacement of old electrical systems and upgrading of the technology network infrastructure. Also, sidewalks, stairs and accessible ramps will be repaired or replaced, and food service areas will be upgraded. All 681 students at Hancock and 793 pupils at Miller are military dependents, according to the district.

OPS plan for new schools, renovations has $683 million price tag
-- Erin Duffy,

Nebraska: July 17, 2014 -- The Omaha school board, with the clock ticking toward signing off on a list of construction projects in time for the November election, will consider a plan Monday that would cost nearly $683 million for renovating and building new schools. The latest plan, presented at a board workshop Thursday, builds on options that have been discussed for months — two new high schools, in South and west Omaha, and widespread renovations for outdated schools that were passed over in the 1999 bond issue — but also adds central air conditioning for all schools and calls for Beveridge Middle to be replaced. Some projects under consideration became casualties of budget constraints. So, instead of building two elementary schools in crowded South Omaha, consultants suggest merely buying land for the future schools. Under the latest proposal, King Elementary wouldn’t be replaced after all, Bryan Middle wouldn’t get an addition, and early childhood education classrooms would be scratched from some elementary schools. And more trims might be coming, even as the board stares down an Aug. 30 deadline to put a bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot. “I think that final number will go down,” board member Marque Snow said. A $683 million bond issue would be the largest in Omaha Public Schools history and most likely in state history. The largest OPS bond issue to date was $254 million, passed in 1999.

Are children working on Minnesota school construction sites?
-- Barb Kucera, Workday Minnesota, Twin Cities Daily Planet

Minnesota: July 16, 2014 -- The Laborers International Union has identified a second possible case of child labor being used on Minnesota construction sites and has alerted authorities at both the state and national level. A formal complaint was submitted Tuesday to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and the United States Department of Labor on behalf of Laborers International Union of North America Local 563, regarding a possible violation of child labor laws at a construction site at a Minnetonka elementary school. The complaint, verified by union representatives, documents that a minor child was apparently working on a concrete pour at Scenic Heights Elementary School at 5650 Scenic Heights Dr., in Minnetonka. A representative of Local 563 was at the school for an unrelated matter, when he noticed the boy, who appeared to be underage. The boy initially claimed to be 18, but a co-worker whom the boy identified as his father admitted that the boy was not an adult, the union said. The complaint is the second of its kind filed by the Laborers in the past two weeks. Previously, a child was discovered working on a similar school renovation project in nearby Edina. “It’s becoming clear that these aren’t isolated incidents, but rather a disturbing trend of contractors cutting corners and putting children in harm’s way,” said Tim Mackey, business manager for Laborers Local 563. “Children should be learning in the classroom, not building them.”

Sunnyvale: City discussing joint-use agreement with SCUSD for more access to park space
-- Alia Wilson, San Jose Mercury News

California: July 16, 2014 -- As open space continues tightening and the city's population expands, the city is looking to get creative when it comes to bolstering its parklands. To that end, the city is exploring a joint-use agreement with the Santa Clara Unified School District for open space areas at Peterson Middle School. The city has agreements with other school districts within the city's boundaries, where the city maintains the fields and in exchange, the district makes the space available to the public when not in use by the schools. According to Sunnyvale communications officer Jennifer Garnett, the city has a joint-use agreement with the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) for the open space at Braly and Ponderosa schools that is very similar to the ones it has with the Sunnyvale and Cupertino school districts. The agreements include all school open space associated with elementary and middle schools that are within Sunnyvale city limits, just not for Peterson Middle School. "In years past, the city and SCUSD had an agreement that allowed the city to issue permits for the use of open space at Peterson, but that agreement did not include the city maintaining the fields," Garnett said. "The city and SCUSD have always had a very cooperative relationship and a variety of agreements over the years; however, a new agreement for Peterson was not pursued by either agency." The open space at Peterson would have to be upgraded to meet city standards, but it is unclear at this point what the cost of such improvements would be or how the terms of use would be dictated. "The report to the city council will include a general cost estimate; however, detailed cost estimates will have to be provided by an architectural [or] engineering consultant at a later date, should the agencies determine to move forward with developing an agreement," Garnett added. The idea to explore a joint-use agreement was proposed by a Sunnyvale resident who earlier this year voiced concerns about the increase use of Raynor Park after its sale to the for-profit, private Stratford School.

Gray Lauds Milestones Reached in Ballou Modernization
-- Staff Writer, Washington Informer

District of Columbia: July 15, 2014 -- D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray celebrated Tuesday the topping out of steel on the new Ballou Senior High School, which signifies that the steel frame for the building is complete and the Phase 1 of the project is now less than six months away from substantial completion. Gray was joined by Ward 8 Council member Marion Berry, Department of General Services (DGS) Director Brian J. Hanlon, and other Ward 8 leaders and officials at the site of the new high school. “The topping-out celebration marks a major milestone in the construction schedule as it brings us one step closer to the completion of what will be an amazing educational facility for teachers, students and the Ward 8 community,” Gray said. “And today we’re less than six months away from completing Phase 1.” About 2,500 tons of steel has been used in the structure of the new high school, which is equivalent to 150 semi-trucks and trailers, or a third of the weight of steel in the Eiffel Tower. District and community leaders congratulated the work that has been completed to date by the 300 construction workers, who have already logged about 275,000 manpower hours on the project. “The countdown has officially begun, and we are six months away from an exciting new Ballou High School,” said D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “I greatly appreciate all the hard work that has gone into the process thus far and I can’t wait to be back here in six months when our students and teachers can move into this beautiful new building.”

As Capitol Riverfront grows, DC plans elementary school reopening
-- BARBARA PASH, Elevation DC

District of Columbia: July 14, 2014 -- Plans are underway to renovate the currently-closed Van Ness Elementary School, at 1150 5th Street SE, in time for the 2015-2016 academic year. The renovation of the school is being spurred by the increasing number of families that have moved into the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, according to Melissa Salmanowitz of DCPS. Planning and the public input process began this spring. Construction will begin later this year or early next. The District's Capital Improvement Plan allocated a budget of $15 million for the renovation of the 49,000-square-foot building. “We will modernize the classrooms and update the building to current educational standards,” says Salmanowitz. The exterior of the 1950s-era building, however, may not change (no decision has yet been made). Van Ness was closed as a public school in 2007. Since then, it has been used as a workspace for public school employees.

-- Staff Writer, San Diego 6

California: July 14, 2014 -- School district construction bond programs around San Diego County are becoming more transparent for public scrutiny, according to a report released Monday by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Nineteen districts were rated by the SDCTA's educational foundation on how various types of information were made available on the Internet, or through reports and audits. The criteria included meeting agendas and minutes, annual reports, financial audits, performance audits and project progress. "We found that, on average, districts met 90 percent of the criteria we were looking for, up from 80 percent the last time we conducted this study in 2011," said SDCTA President and CEO W. Mark Leslie. "While there clearly is some good news in this study for taxpayers, some school districts are not meeting basic criteria such as posting audits to their websites." The authors of the report said taxpayers should be able to find out if new libraries, pools and classrooms promised by district officials to voters have actually been built. Public concern over school construction bonds increased two years ago when it was discovered that the Poway Unified School District issued a capital appreciation bond that leaves taxpayers in that area on the hook for paying back $981 million over 40 years, in exchange for borrowing $105 million to construct school facilities. State legislation was subsequently passed to restrict the terms of such bonds.

School Construction Faces Current Labor Shortage, Future Revenue Decline
-- Aaron Schrank , Wyoming Public Media

Wyoming: July 11, 2014 -- It’s a tense public meeting in Rawlins. School District officials here recently learned that the latest contractor bid to build a new Rawlins High School is $7 million dollars over budget. Carbon County School District 1 Superintendent Fletcher Turcato says Rawlins isn’t interested in making cuts. “Four months ago, we were within budget—and because of a bidding climate, now they want us to continue to take money out of this project,” Turcato said. “That’s not going to happen. The Board said it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to do that to the people of Rawlins.” There’s one representative here from the School Facilities Department—the state agency that oversees design and construction. His name’s Dave Burnett, and the crowd here is pummeling him with questions. Chief among them: ‘How do you expect us to cut $7 million from our school?’ “We’re looking to the design team to offer recommendations to get there,” Burnett says. “Don’t you have some general idea of where 7 out of 28 million dollars would come?,” asks Mitch Alderman, a Rawlins High School language arts teacher. “I mean, this is what you for a living. Don’t you have any general idea where 25 percent of it’s going to change?” The current Rawlins High School was built in the 1950s—with capacity for more than 1,000 students. With about 450 there today, the state closed off one wing of the school to save money on utilities and maintenance. Once the state approved a new high school, the community passed a $25 million bond measure to pay for enhancements like a pool and larger auditorium. People like Rawlins City Attorney Amy Bach are anxious to break ground on a new school. “I’m tired of our community getting the brunt end of the stick,” Bach says. “We have two schools that have been in shambles—in demolition—waiting for Cheyenne to get off their butt.” Many here blame the state for construction delays and inflated bids. Superintendent Turcato says the state wants to do more value engineering, or “V.E.,” basically looking to save money on design. He’s not having it. “We’re done arguing over the V.E. process—over taking this much money—taking flooring out and making our new high school look like a prison,” Turcato says. “I’ve said it to the Commission before and I’ll say it again—we already have one prison in Rawlins, we don’t want another one, and we don’t want our high school to look like it.” Bill Panos is the Director of Wyoming’s School Facilities Department. He says his office is still early in conversation with Carbon County School District 1 and the architect and contractor on the project about how to move forward. “We have not asked the school district to cut $7 million,” Panos says. “We have not asked anybody to do anything yet, except give us a little more information about why it’s over.” Panos says the situation in Rawlins isn’t unique. Construction demand in the state is high. It’s late in the season—and that’s driving up prices on many projects. “With the current bidding environment that we have in the state, we are getting about 50 percent of our bids are coming at the estimate or under the estimate,” says Panos. “And those 50 percent that are over estimate—they’re over by anything from 20-30 percent.”

General Assembly extends moratorium on new-school construction for another year
-- Linda Borg , Providence Journal

Rhode Island: July 11, 2014 -- PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The General Assembly has extended a moratorium on new school construction for another year, putting about $60 million worth of repairs and renovations on hold. Joseph DaSilva, the state Department of Education’s school construction coordinator, said renovations involving immediate health and safety issues will be permitted, pending reviews by RIDE and approval by the state Board of Education. But new buildings, additions or repairs to athletic fields will have to wait another year before moving forward. House Finance Committee Chairman Raymond Gallison said that extending the moratorium allows the legislature to spend more time considering “viable options as the state faces continued budget pressure and the potential for several hundred million dollars in new project requests.” In January, DaSilva told a House task force that the moratorium, which took effect three years ago, had resulted in “missed opportunities” because districts couldn’t get state reimbursements for part of their school construction costs. During the moratorium, he said, $600 million worth of repairs, energy efficiencies and other school improvements have been deferred. Meanwhile, many of the state’s school buildings need substantial updates; the average age of a school building in Rhode Island is 58 years. “It definitely impacts our charter schools because they are growing,” DaSilva said. “It’s a real struggle for them to find places to house their kids.”

Cardozo High School Wins 2014 Preservation Award
-- Dorothy Rowley, Washington Informer

District of Columbia: July 9, 2014 -- The innovative design of Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus in Northwest has made it a standout among District schools that have undergone modernizations over the past few years. As a result, the newly-renovated Cardozo, which boasts state-of-the-art technology and floor-to-ceiling murals, ranks among 11 winners of the 2014 Historic Preservation Review Board Chair's Award. The awards are presented on behalf of a government project that celebrates the history of the District’s public schools and their commitment to educating the city’s youth. During the first half of the 20th century, District officials initiated a major building campaign to ease overcrowding in the public schools. However, by the turn of the century, the structures no longer met students’ needs, and in 2007 school officials launched the Public Schools Modernization and Stabilization Project to fully renovate all 123 elementary, middle and high school buildings and related administrative and support facilities. All totaled, it cost $130 million to modernize the aging Cardozo, which now serves students grades 6 through 12. Renovations, completed in late 2013, included a restored indoor pool, technologically-advanced classrooms and specially-designed practice rooms and performance areas for the band and chorus.

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