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

School facilities study could become plan costing $100 million
-- Rick Wagner, TimesNews

Tennessee: April 19, 2015 -- Sullivan County’s school facilities study, set to be accepted by the county school board May 4, and the parallel but separate Kingsport study may morph into a capital plan costing about $100 million total instead of more than $300 million. Or at least that’s the take county Director of Schools Jubal Yennie gave to the county Board of Education during a Thursday evening work session. When Ohio-based consultant Tracy Richter gives an update on the facilities study to the school board 6 p.m. Monday, Yennie said to look for a plan calling for two new high schools with a twist. Instead of building two new 1,700 or 1,800 high schools to replace the four existing county high schools, Yennie said the plan may be tweaked to build two 1,200-student schools of two pods with a third pod to be built later. He said that would shave about $20 million off the cost of a two new high schools option that would cost more than $200 million.

Districts could soon share construction funding with charter schools
-- Erin Kourkounis , The Tampa Tribune

Florida: April 19, 2015 -- Traditional public schools in Florida could soon be required to share money designated for construction and maintenance with charter schools in their districts. Last month, the majority-Republican House approved a bill that includes a last-minute provision that calls for school districts to divert some of the local property tax money they can raise for construction and maintenance costs to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Local school district officials say the move — praised by charter school operators — could place financial burdens on districts that are already operating under tight capital budgets that go toward expenses like maintaining aging school buildings, building new ones and purchasing new school buses. “We’ve already, over the last several years, had less dollars to use for our own maintenance,” acting Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins recently told the Tribune’s editorial board. “Any additional dollars we would lose would definitely be a challenge for us. It will create a bigger backlog on our maintenance issues for our buildings and a strain on our budget.” A Florida Department of Education analysis distributed to school districts earlier this month estimates that Hillsborough County charter schools could be up for about $8 million of the capital outlay money the school district draws each year from local property taxes, if the Legislature does not set aside money to go to the charters. This year, Hillsborough is slated to receive a total of a little over $100 million from a 1.5 mill property tax. Of that, $66 million will go toward debt service payments. If the Legislature sets aside $100 million for charter school construction and maintenance as the House has proposed, the amount Hillsborough County would have to provide to its charter schools would drop to $1.5 million. Those numbers could change, as state budget talks are not expected to wrap up until this summer.

State uncertainty puts Wilkes-Barre Area in bind for new high school plan
-- Mark Guydish, Times Leader

Pennsylvania: April 19, 2015 -- WILKES-BARRE — With a looming construction project estimated into the hundreds of millions, this is the conundrum for Wilkes-Barre Area School Board: A moratorium on state reimbursement for such projects may or may not happen, no one knows how long it would last if it does happen, and the amount of state money at risk can’t be predicted. Yet despite all those ifs, the school board has been given a firm and potentially costly deadline: Decide what to build and where to build it in the next few weeks. Ignoring the deadline could cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Or it could cost nothing. But the board doesn’t get to know the outcome until after the deadline. Board Vice-President Joe Caffrey said last week that a state official had advised the board to file detailed paperwork regarding the project by July 1 if it wants to be sure it has a chance at getting state money. The problem, Caffrey said, is that the board hadn’t planned on making decisions required to complete that paperwork until later in the summer. What happened?

Debate continues over best use of new school site in Prince William County
-- Jim Barnes, Washington Post

Virginia: April 19, 2015 -- The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is using the power of persuasion and its control of purse strings to try to defuse a controversy that has erupted in recent weeks over plans for an elementary school that is scheduled to be built in the mid-county area. The school board is considering a staff recommendation to move the Mary G. Porter Traditional School from its current location in Woodbridge to a site at the intersection of Spriggs and Minnieville roads. That site, on land previously owned by the Ferlazzo family, had been planned for an elementary school for children who live in the mid-county area, scheduled to open in 2016. The proposal sparked an outcry from area residents who say they have been counting on a new facility to alleviate overcrowding in their schools. School officials contend that overcrowding is much more severe in the Route 1 corridor, and that moving the Porter school from its current facility would free up classroom space for students in that area.

School Yards to Appear Brown on Their Luck as Santa Barbara District Grapples with Drought
-- Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk

California: April 19, 2015 -- Santa Barbara Unified School District officials decided to shut off the irrigation of all nonplaying-field lawns last week, so every campus will start showing the impacts of California’s chronic drought. “You’re going to see a lot of brown around a lot of schools,” district facilities director David Hetyonk said. He said the conditions will be very noticeable when people drive by the historic campuses of Santa Barbara Junior High School, 721 E. Cota St., and Santa Barbara High School, 700 E. Anapamu St., although SBHS’ school colors are already green and gold. As a pilot program, district staff have also started pulling out “ornamental turf” between classroom wings and replacing the lawns with mulch and drought-tolerant plants, with a welcome reception so far, Hetyonk said. Some campuses have a lot of lawn area that isn’t used for sports or other student activities. SBUSD trustees and the Santa Barbara City Council discussed the drought and shared efforts to provide after-school programs in a joint meeting last week. Water customers in the City of Santa Barbara have cut down on usage by 22 percent, just short of the 25 percent Gov. Jerry Brown is asking for, water resources manager Joshua Haggmark said. The school district uses recycled water for most outdoor irrigation but it’s important to cut back on usage now while the recycled water treatment plant is offline for repairs, officials said. The district has cut back its water use by 19 percent, Haggmark said. Hetyonk said the use of “smart” irrigation controls helped the district reduce outdoor irrigation by 30 percent.

Arlington County Board to take care of costs associated with school-construction delay
-- SCOTT McCAFFREY, insideNova

Virginia: April 18, 2015 -- Arlington County Board members say they will take the financial hit for delaying construction of a new elementary school. But a majority of board members say it isn’t necessary to set aside the funding right now. As the minutes ticked down for board members to finalize their fiscal 2016 budget on April 16, County Board member Libby Garvey sought inclusion of funding totaling up to $2.1 million for potential cost overruns in construction of the proposed, but delayed, new school. School Board members have planned to build the new school on the campus of Thomas Jefferson Middle School, but the County Board in January put that option on hold and sent the school system back to gather more information about the school’s impact on its surroundings, and to develop alternative sites. The action set back the project at least a year, and Garvey said school officials shouldn’t be on the hook for cost appreciation that likely will be in the 3- to 5-percent range. “We can sometimes forget the cost of these delays,” said Garvey, who in January was the lone vote to allow the School Board to move forward with the project. “We were the cause of the delay; we will cover that.”

St. Louis Public Schools tries to shed vacant buildings
-- Elisa Crouch, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missouri: April 17, 2015 -- They were warned they’d see heartbreak and devastation. But even those words couldn’t describe what several hundred alumni from Cleveland High School found Wednesday evening when they put on surgical masks and re-entered their south St. Louis school building, a place they affectionately called the Castle. St. Louis Public Schools opened up the century-old building to the public for about an hour as part of a larger effort to find buyers for 21 of its vacant schools — nearly all of which have fallen into various states of disrepair. At Cleveland, nine years of water damage, vandalism, looting and environmental exposure had turned the building into a horror show inside. The gym walls are covered in graffiti. Classrooms are strewn with rubble. But the exterior of building — including its two iconic towers — appear unharmed. As the crowd moved beneath the arched entrance, Linda Cappiello-Anselman walked toward the cavernous auditorium. She hadn’t been inside it since her 1984 graduation. She and her husband used flashlights to make their way toward the stage. Daylight peered through holes in the ceiling. They could barely make out the Art Deco murals on either side of the stage that a Cleveland art director painted in the 1960s.

California Announces $113 Million for School Construction Projects
-- Staff Writer, Imperial Valley News

California: April 16, 2015 -- Sacramento, California - The State Allocation Board (SAB) announced today that it has awarded approximately $113.6 million for school construction projects throughout the state. The SAB awarded approximately $113.6 million for 41 School Facility Program (SFP) projects within 22 school districts statewide. The state matching funds for SFP projects are distributed to local school districts to help finance shovel-ready school construction projects or reimburse districts for projects already completed using local funds. State funding for SFP projects is provided by bonds authorized under Propositions 1A, 1D, 47, and 55. "The State Allocation Board’s actions today provide cash apportionments for 41 school facility projects across the state," said SAB Chair Eraina Ortega, who also serves as Chief Deputy Director, Policy at the California Department of Finance. "The Office of Public School Construction will distribute the bond funds to school districts within 90 days so local school construction projects can move forward as quickly as possible."

Juneau School District Seeking Special Election For School Bonds
-- Lisa Phu, Alaska Public Media

Alaska: April 16, 2015 -- The Juneau School District wants a special June election asking voters to approve a bond for school renovations before a law stopping state reimbursements for school construction takes effect. The governor still hasn’t signed the bill, but if he does, the school district has 90 days before it becomes a law to hold an election. Even if all goes smoothly and the district beats the countdown, it’s still unclear if it will get reimbursed. Lisa Phu has more. Vm P The Marie Drake Building was built in 1965 as a junior high school. Now, it houses Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School, Montessori Borealis and some district offices. “It’s very difficult to teach science in a classroom that has one sink that is as old as the building that works most of the time but not all the times,” Ryia Waldern said. She’s the science teacher at Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi, which doesn’t have any lab facilities. “We do different squid and fish dissections,” she said. “We also teach a really incredible forensics class where it can get pretty messy because we’re doing different blood splatter analysis.” All of that is done in a normal classroom. “And my floors and the lights are original to the building and when the students upstairs in Montessori are doing their really fun activities, our lights shake and it’s very loud,” Waldern said. “And I’m glad they’re having fun up there, but it can be a little distracting when we’re taking notes and things like that.”

Back to the map: N.O. school building plan needs a new look, superintendent says
-- Danielle Dreilinger, The Times-Picayune

Louisiana: April 16, 2015 -- As the Orleans Parish School Board prepares to sell off a dozen properties, Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. says it's time to revisit how many public schools New Orleans needs and where they should be. The system has "to make sure we have a comprehensive plan that meets the needs of the city," Lewis said Thursday (April 16) at the School Board's committee meetings. Yellow cranes have lifted beams all over the city thanks to a $1.8 billion FEMA Hurricane Katrina settlement that provided a unique opportunity to re-envision the map of schools -- a job made more complicated because the state Recovery School District had taken over most of the buildings. The two systems created a school facilities master plan in 2008 that cut about 40 campuses, one third of the total that existed before the storm. Recovery and Orleans officials made decisions based on demographic projections for neighborhoods, and on whether the building or site was still suitable for a school. But it hasn't been revised since 2011, and in that time, "citizens have returned to the city of New Orleans," Lewis said.

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