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

Judge rules against school closures
-- Mike Lamb, Desert Dispatch

California: May 26, 2016 -- SAN BERNARDINO — A Superior Court judge has ordered the Barstow Unified School District to vacate the project to close both Thomson Elementary School and Hinkley Elementary School. The ruling was delivered May 17 by Judge Gilbert Ochoa. It follows his February ruling that the district rescind its 2012 resolution to close Hinkley and Thomson elementary schools. The order came after California's Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed his earlier ruling in the Save Our Schools vs. Barstow Unified School District case. Thomson is now the site of the district's STEM Academy, while Hinkley remains closed. "The approvals of the school closures and student transfers as well as the CEQA determinations must be set aside and vacated within 90 days," attorney Abigail Smith said Thursday. She works for Johnson & Sedlack, which is representing the petitioner, Save Our Schools. "The District must prepare a new CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) determination if it intends to re-approve the project. There should be a new public hearing, although the District could technically proceed withhold holding one," Smith said. Superintendent Jeff Malan said Barstow Unified will comply with the terms of the writ as directed by the court. "Yesterday, the District received a signed copy of the writ of mandate issued by the San Bernardino County Superior Court in the Save Our Schools v. Barstow Unified School District case," Malan said Thursday.

Small Town School Closing its Doors After 144 Years

Iowa: May 26, 2016 -- WALNUT, Iowa -- While metro schools make decisions to meet growing student populations, some schools in Iowa are facing a much harder decision. Just last week, the Waukee School District approved a land purchase for a second high school. But it’s the exact opposite for the town of Walnut, closing its schools’ doors after 144 years. The Iowa census estimates 776 people live in Walnut, 121 fewer people than what it says on the sign that greets you. It’s a statistic reflected in the lone school. “Too many times schools are academically bankrupt before they are financially bankrupt, and that's certainly the position Walnut was in,” said Superintendent Jesse Ulrich. The Walnut Community School District has seen a dramatic drop in enrollment over the past five years, with 171 students in 2010 and just 72 students in 2015. That’s why the school that has taught students since 1872 is closing its doors to merge with the neighboring AHST Community School District. “It's never going be the same. I just hope the town itself can survive without the school,” said Walnut resident Donna Harris-Heiny. The school's been the focal point for many years.

Study says schools in Yonkers, N.Y., are 20 percent over capacity
-- Mike Kennedy, American School & University

New York: May 25, 2016 -- Student enrollment in the Yonkers (N.Y.) district is 20 percent over the capacity of the city's aging public school facilities, a study of district schools has concluded. The building capacity study finds that the district's December 2015 enrollment of 26,736 was 4,428 more than the functional capacity of the district's 39 schools—22,308. The findings from the building capacity study are the latest step in an effort by the Yonkers school district and its supporters to persuade the New York State Legislature to support a $2 billion, 13-year plan to rebuild all 39 public schools in the city of Yonkers. The average age of the schools is 75 years old, and many of the campuses have deteriorating conditions. “So many Yonkers schools are over 100 years old,” Superintendent Edwin M. Quezada says. “They are crumbling around our students and staff. Patchwork repairs are no longer acceptable.”

Hogan wants details of Baltimore County school air conditioning plan
-- Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun

Maryland: May 25, 2016 -- Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday welcomed Baltimore County's decision to accelerate plans to install air conditioning in all of its public schools, but refused to back off the Board of Public Works' decision to withhold school construction money until he sees a written plan. The Republican governor and Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot took full credit for the county's decision to finish installing central air at all elementary and middle schools by 2017 and high schools by 2018 rather than waiting until 2021 to complete the job. "It's an encouraging sign that they finally seem to be getting the message," Hogan said. At its last meeting two weeks ago, the board voted 2-1 to withhold $10 million in state school construction aid from the county and $5 million from Baltimore city unless both install portable window air conditioning units by the start of school this year. Hogan and Franchot approved the action over the objections of Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, a Democrat elected by the General Assembly. Hogan said he is pleased that after what he called years of "excuses and procrastination," Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the new timeline plan last week. But the governor said he needs to see more than a press release before the state releases the school construction funds.

Building Codes Require New Schools To Include Tornado Shelters, But Many Won’t Have Them
-- Jason Allen, CBS DFW

Texas: May 25, 2016 -- Building codes published last year require new schools in North Texas to include tornado shelters, but many new campuses under construction now won’t have them. Districts are citing higher construction cost, and they’re waiting for cities to adopt the new codes first. In West, the new secondary campus under construction is one of the few in North Texas adding a shelter that will meet the new codes. During the school day it will be an auxiliary gym. But its 14-inch thick concrete walls, and roof construction similar to a parking garage, is designed to stand up to the 250 mph winds of an EF5 tornado. “You have to design for about 4 times the wind pressure, and about 5 times the roof live load,” said Ben Harris, the director of engineering at Fort Worth firm Huckabee. “That’s to account for all the debris that can pile up on top of the roof.”

Cardiff School District gathering community feedback to address aging facilities and safety needs
-- Staff Writer, Seaside Courier

California: May 25, 2016 -- The Cardiff School District is considering a school improvement bond measure for major capital improvements to its facilities ahead of the upcoming November 2016 ballot, according to the district. The district’s primary needs are to improve safety and make major repairs and facility improvements to the aging 55- to 65-year-old buildings on the Cardiff School campus, the district reported. Cardiff School was founded in 1913 with 23 students. It was rebuilt in 1950, modernized in 2002, and currently serves 369 kindergarten through third grade students. Ada W. Harris Elementary School, which presently serves 350 third through sixth grade students, was originally constructed in 1960 and was completely rebuilt in 2002 using a school improvement bond measure.

Emergency loan pool proposed for school construction needs
-- Kimberly Beltran, Cabinet Report

California: May 25, 2016 -- School construction officials are set this afternoon to consider a new loan program for districts in dire need of building capital once provided through state bond funds which are no longer available. The plan before the State Allocation Board calls for the loan proceeds to be repaid with monies from a new school construction bond headed for the November ballot. If the measure fails, districts could increase the school impact fees they are allowed to collect from housing developers whose projects bring in more students. Regulations currently governing a program for districts that meet ‘extreme financial hardship’ would be expanded, creating a new loan program to cover the state and/or district share of new construction projects, according to a staff report prepared for the SAB, which approves expenditures for K-12 building projects under the state’s School Facility Program. Funding for the loans would require a new budget allocation or could come through the state’s Pooled Money Investment Account. The PMIA, according to the State Treasurer’s website, is a pot of taxpayer dollars invested “to manage the State’s cash flow and strengthen the financial security of local governmental entities.” At the end of April, the site reports, the PMIA portfolio totaled approximately $67.6 billion.

Chicago school board approves expanded private maintenance program
-- Juan Perez Jr., Chicago Tribune

Illinois: May 25, 2016 -- The head of the labor union representing Chicago Public Schools' building engineers called plans to privatize his group's work a "money pit scheme" as the district's board approved an expansion of a privately managed maintenance program. The unanimous vote by the Chicago Board of Education doubles the size of an upkeep program managed under contract of up to $80 million won by SodexoMAGIC, a company partly controlled by former NBA superstar and Mayor Rahm Emanuel supporter Earvin "Magic" Johnson. The district, citing its bleak financial condition, privatized many building maintenance duties in 2014 but quickly started receiving complaints about dirty schools. "These are the same companies with complaints against them for dirty, filthy schools," William Iacullo, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143, told the school board Wednesday. "But you guys are going to reward them with an expansion."

Newport News School Board to seek $143 million for school repairs, renovations
-- Jane Hammond and Theresa Clift, Daily Press

Virginia: May 25, 2016 -- The School Board plans to ask the city for more than three times the amount last received for capital improvement funding. The plan, which covers fiscal years 2018 through 2022, calls for close to $143 million in funding for school repairs, updates and a substantial, $60 million renovation of Huntington Middle School. The 2017 through 2021 plan, which begins July 1, comes in at $42.4 million. Huntington opened as Huntington High School in 1939; the building is one of five the division built before 1950. The division estimates that to transform the building to an appropriately sized facility with modern technology for the approximate 520 students it houses would take $60 million, plus $2.8 million in design costs.

Lawsuit over school construction funding looms
-- Howard Fischer, Arizona Daily Sun

Arizona: May 24, 2016 -- PHOENIX -- Just as one lawsuit on education funding is being settled, state lawmakers face a new one, this one over what challengers say is their failure to build and maintain public schools. Attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest said the legislature is effectively ignoring a 1994 ruling by the state Supreme Court that declared it is illegal to have taxpayers in each school district solely responsible for school construction. Lawmakers, after several failed attempts, finally approved a plan that was supposed to have the state pick up the responsibility. But Hogan said the legislature has not provided adequate funding in years. The result, he said, has been to throw the burden back on local districts whose voters have to borrow money for what should be a state responsibility, precisely the situation the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 1994. Hogan is now working with local school districts who have been denied the money they need for new schools -- money the state was supposed to provide -- to ask Arizona judges to force lawmakers to properly fund the system. There was no immediate response from Gov. Doug Ducey. Under the system in place before 1994, school districts borrowed money for new construction and repair it through local property tax. That year the high court said it created disparities between rich districts that could afford domed stadiums and poor ones with plumbing that did not work. The court, however, refused to impose its own solution.

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