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

Cuyahoga County school enrollment drops 12,000; schools close
-- DiAngelea Millar, Northeast Ohio Media Group,

Ohio: November 19, 2014 -- SOLON, Ohio – Solon schools wants to close an elementary school. Strongsville is looking to close two. Parma closed four schools. All because the number of students attending Cuyahoga County public schools is shrinking. "The public school system has been losing students statewide," said Tracy Healy, the head of FutureThink, which helps schools with district planning. "Cuyahoga County has been hit the hardest." In the last decade, Cuyahoga County has lost 12,000 students. Only 11 counties in Ohio gained students, most of them surrounding burgeoning Columbus, said Healy. The drop is owed in part to declining fertility rates -- Ohio's birthrate has dropped ever since 2003, from 14 births per 1,000 women 2003 to 12.6 births in 2012, state records show. "Our culture has changed," Healy said. "Fewer children are more of a norm." The drop in school-age kids is also due to Cuyahoga County's lack of undeveloped land. Because cities are nearly built out, new houses aren't constructed. And these days, older residents without school-age children remain in their homes longer. The housing market is no longer hot. Retirees aren't selling up and out. School districts can't grow.

Community brainstorms new uses for vacant schools
-- Payne Schroeder, TheNotebook

Pennsylvania: November 19, 2014 -- The challenge, posed to community members at a charette last week, was to devise, design, and present new uses for two shuttered school buildings within 24 hours. The Community Design Collaborative, a nonprofit that provides free design services; the Deputy Mayor’s Office; and the American Institute of Architects hosted the charette, a term used in design circles to describe a collaborative planning session involving representatives from different disciplines. “It was a long process, finding the sites, finding the community partners, and folks willing to think of it as an option,” said Design Collaborative director Beth Miller of the event, which was held at the Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch St. “I think it’s a long road, but I think there were some great ideas shared and some really great conversations.” The four design teams, each with more than a dozen participants, crafted proposals reimagining uses for two closed School District buildings: the old Frances Willard School in Kensington and M.H. Stanton School in North Philadelphia. The schools were selected for this event because they had not attracted buyers after they closed, said Danielle Floyd, the District’s deputy for strategic initiatives. Each design team included architects, private and nonprofit developers, and community members. M.H Stanton and Willard had two design teams each, responsible for creating a temporary and permanent plan for reuse. Although ideas for both schools tended to overlap (outdoor space for food trucks, urban gardens and gatherings, affordable housing for intergenerational families, and indoor event space for sports and adult education), the Willard designs catered to that community’s specific need for youth programming after the school replaced the neighborhood's recreation center.

Worcester schools awarded $9.6 million in grants for accelerated repairs
-- Lindsay Corcoran,

Massachusetts: November 19, 2014 -- WORCESTER – The Massachusetts School Building Authority has awarded the Worcester Public School district with over $9.6 million in accelerated repair grants to make improvements to four school buildings. The grant money will cover about 80 percent of the cost of window and door replacements at four schools including: Clark Street Developmental Learning School, Goddard School of Science and Technology, Union Hill School and West Tatnuck School. The total cost of these projects is about $12.9 million. Brian Allen, the chief financial and operations officer for the Worcester Public Schools said this is the third year Worcester has received funding for these types of repairs. “Other works on window and boiler replacements have gone a long way toward improving the aesthetic of schools for students and families, but they’ve also an energy saver,” Allen said. He said it’s hard to put an exact figure on the savings since many of the upgrades are still new, but said they’re expecting “good numbers” this year. He noted the latest projects will bring the total number of school buildings in the district that have received these upgrades to 13 out of a total of 48 buildings. “We couldn’t do all of these significant projects if it weren’t for the MSBA,” Allen said. The announcement of funding for Worcester’s schools came on Wednesday as part of $17,898,910 in grants the MSBA awarded to eight school districts in the state.

Kingston Board of Education ponders pact with unions for high school renovations
-- William J. Kemble, Daily Freeman News

New York: November 19, 2014 -- KINGSTON >> The Board of Education is expected to receive a recommendation next month on whether to sign a project labor agreement requiring union labor for the $137.5 million Kingston High School expansion and renovation project. At a board meeting Wednesday, Trustee James Shaughnessy said a committee already meeting is with a school officials from Marlboro and union representatives on the impact of labor agreements. “The third meeting was just the board members and we had a spirited discussion about how to proceed,” he said. “The decision then was to request the administration to bring to us (a request for proposals) for how much it would cost to do a due diligence report.” Shaughnessy said the report is required by state law to show whether there would be savings under a such an agreement and how much the district could expect to save.

Chesterfield's Planning Commission urges school system to include entire community
-- LOUIS LLOVIO, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Virginia: November 18, 2014 -- Chesterfield County is looking to use $304 million in voter-approved school renovations as a springboard for spurring the revitalization of communities across the county, and planning commissioners Tuesday urged the school system to make the process as inclusive as possible. The county school system is renovating 10 schools and building a new one thanks to a voter-approved bond referendum last year. As those projects begin, several county departments will focus on areas within a roughly 1-mile radius of the school in an effort to boost the areas. Within that radius, the county will publicize its tax grants for home improvements, apply for federal block grants and send code inspectors to comb neighborhoods for common violations. The idea is that county investment, such as new sidewalks or street lights, along with the nicer schools would encourage homeowners to improve their property and could attract business investment to the community.

Engineering group gives low grades for Montana infrastructure - Schools Received a D-minus
-- The Associated Press, Daily Reporter

Montana: November 18, 2014 -- BILLINGS, Montana — A group of professional engineers say in a report slated for release Tuesday that Montana schools, wastewater treatment facilities and other infrastructure have slid into disrepair and are in need of investment. The "report card" on the state's infrastructure comes from the state chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Lowest marks went to the state's public school system, which received a D-minus. The majority of Montana's 2000 public school buildings were built before 1970, according to the engineering group. It said 66 percent of schools need repairs, and recommended that state officials consider creating an endowment program to help pay for improvements. The state's cumulative grade was a C-minus, which "basically says that our state's infrastructure is mediocre," said Melissa Matassa-Stone, a Missoula engineer who chaired the committee that produced the report. "We see functioning systems — don't get me wrong," Matassa-Stone said. "But we see general signs of deterioration. It's not good enough." The report card comes a day after Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock proposed a budget that calls for $300 million for water, sewer, roads and broadband Internet projects across the state. Republicans in the Legislature also have pushed for more infrastructure investment. But there's disagreement from the two sides on how to pay for it. Bullock wants to use mostly bonds; Republicans favor spending cash.

Wake County parents plead for changes to student assignment proposal

North Carolina: November 18, 2014 -- In a packed room of parents and students, speakers pleaded with the Wake County school board Tuesday to drop their neighborhoods from the 2015-16 student reassignment proposal. The 18 speakers, mostly from western and southwestern Wake, argued that the proposed shifts in where their communities would attend classes next year would disrupt families and communities, and weaken parental support for schools. Tuesday marked the only public hearing the school board has scheduled before a potential vote on Dec. 2. “You’re affecting kids’ lives,” said Kate Steiman, a Holly Springs parent. “You’re affecting our small town. We take our village to raise our kids.” The final draft presented Nov. 4 represents months of work to develop a proposal that focuses primarily on filling three new schools, reducing crowding at existing schools and reducing the number of families with children on different school calendars. The plan mostly affects Apex, North Raleigh and Wake Forest, areas experiencing student growth.

Taxpayers group backs plan to refinance Poway school district bonds
-- Steve Dreyer, Pomerado News

California: November 18, 2014 -- A proposal to refinance some of the Poway Unified School District’s controversial capital appreciation bonds has received the backing of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. The support was disclosed at Monday night’s school board meeting by Sean Karafin, the association’s economic policy analyst. The proposal, if eventually adopted by the board, would save district taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and would help balance what Karafin called the “intergenerational equity” between current and future taxpayers. Board members listened to presentations from Karafin and from the district’s own financial advisor, Benjamin Dolinka from the Dolinka Group. A few questions were asked but no action was taken, meaning the future of the proposal will rest in the hands of a board that will have a new majority in place following swearing-in ceremonies on Dec. 8. Voters on Nov. 4 tossed out incumbents Todd Gutschow and Marc Davis and replaced them with three challengers. Veteran board member Penny Ranftle is retiring. Since August the board has been mulling a proposal from a San Francisco-based financial firm interested in putting together a plan to refinance a yet-to-be-determined portion of the bonds which the district issued without call option in 2011 to pay off a school renovation project construction loan.

-- MERRILL HOPE, Breitbart

Texas: November 17, 2014 -- Already on the hook for $65 billion in outstanding school bond debt approved and issued between 2007-2013, Texans voted in more mega-school bond debt statewide in 2014 that will pile nearly $10 billion more onto the statewide property tax payer tab. For public school debt alone, Texans will owe almost $75 billion -- before interest. In the latest go-round of school bonds on the November ballot, the meatiest measure to pass was in Katy Independent School District (ISD), weighing in at $748,118,930, followed by Fort Bend ISD at $484,157,027 and Garland ISD at $455,500,000, the last of which boasted that this was its largest bond package in the district's history. According to the Dallas Morning News, the funds were needed for aging facilities and school security: "Dallas County's second-largest district was also proposing a natatorium and a career tech center in its first bond election since 2002. The money will be used to upgrade exterior cameras, add fire alarms, provide interior sprinkler systems for 35 campuses and secure the entrances at 64 schools."

AmCan seeking greener possibilities near school
-- NOEL BRINKERHOFF, American Canyon Eagle

California: November 17, 2014 -- A lush landscape of trees, green grass and a community garden could someday abound near Donaldson Way Elementary School in American Canyon. The open space located between the school and Community Park 1 is currently underused, according to one landscaping expert who was asked by the city to assess the property. Some local residents have complained about the unsightly plot of land, calling it “ugly.” But transforming it into something enjoyable for the community is a real possibility, said Dylan Buterbaugh at a recent joint meeting of the American Canyon Parks and Community Services Commission and the Open Space Advisory Committee. “This area is underused,” said Buterbaugh, a recent graduate of UC Davis who studied the area as part of his senior project in landscape architecture. There are many of uses “that could be beneficial” to the community. Buterbaugh recommended a joint-use plan because the city and school district own portions of the land. He envisioned planting trees and grass as well as a robust community garden that could serve as an outdoor classroom for elementary students to enjoy.

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