News items come from the U.S. Department of Educations's National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF).
Modesto schools in need of $1 billion in repairs, upgrades
Nan Austin, The Modesto Bee
October 5, 2015
-- A detailed look at bringing every campus up to grade lays out roughly $1 billion in fixes and improvements recommended for Modesto City Schools sites.
“These are big numbers, but not unusual for a district of our size,” said Becky Meredith, senior director of business services. The cost of repairs and improvements totals $746 million, which with costs such as permits and management fees would take $1 billion to fund, she said.
The exhaustive report presented to trustees breaks down deficiencies of all 34 schools, two complexes largely used for administration and the district corporation yard. Each school’s needs are also assessed on a scale of 1 to 5, from minor fixes to full replacement.
“We did some modernizing, and I was surprised they have a lot more to do. But I understand things age quickly,” said board member Cindy Marks, the only trustee to comment on the report.
Prioritizing needs will be discussed at public forums and staff meetings over the coming months, with final approval by trustees, Chief Business Official Julie Betschart told the board.
Even with deep reserves, the district cannot afford to do it all. The state traditionally helps districts with facilities costs, but state borrowing for schools is on hold.
The lengthy list includes new water systems, electrical work and whole building replacements at some campuses, but much of the overall cost overall appears to stem from the sheer volume of relatively inexpensive fixes like cracked paint, uneven walkways and rusting gutters.
The study proposes replacing only portables in use since 1972 or earlier. Many of the district’s older campuses need new multipurpose rooms, and the board already has set aside $11.7 million to replace deteriorating cafeterias and classrooms at two of its oldest elementary schools, Burbank and Wilson.
Education disparities in N.O. start with brick and mortar say activists
Kendall Lawson, Louisiana Weekly
October 5, 2015
-- As the charter bus circled the city of New Orleans, education activists pointed at abandoned and deteriorated schools with the hope that the education reform bus tour of the city, and town hall forum would spark a conversation about disparities in public education facilities. Roughly 50 people participated in the tour of the city’s public schools and later attended the town hall titled The Future of New Orleans Public Education at Christian Unity Baptist Church on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. The bus tour and forum was put on by The Schott Foundation, the United Parents Standing for Education Together, the New Orleans Equity Roundtable Coalition for Community Schools, the Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center, and the New Orleans Imperative.
Activists told riders that not only did the Hurricane Katrina take over 1,400 lives. The category 5 storm also took away educational opportunities for many students by ruining the city’s schools and learning institutions. Ten years later, New Orleans’s public schools are physically run down with the state-run Recovery School District either closing them or converting them into charter schools. “It’s smoke and mirrors,” said Karran Harper, a founding member of Parents Across America, who directed the bus tour. “They didn’t transform the schools to make them better, they closed them,” Harper said.
The activists pointed out that strengthening these neighborhoods post-Katrina required investing in public schools. “Rebuild has a new connotation,” said Roslyn Smith, a private educational consultant. “These neighborhoods are struggling to come back with the lack of schools,” Smith said. The city’s schools that serve primarily African-American students have become neglected under the current, charter school system. Funding has been directed towards repairing schools in more affluent areas, advocates said. The charter system does not provide the amount of financial help compared to the prior public school system which allowed for better oversight and accountability.
Since the storm, nearly three-thirds of the city’s public schools have become independent charter schools. While the Recovery School District put in place these charters as its solution, activists said that the charters operate out of inadequate learning facilities, and students are placed in schools far from their homes.
State senator's bill would address school closings
Susan DeMar Lafferty, Chicago Tribune
October 4, 2015
-- Local state officials, who have stayed out of the fray involving the decision to close Lincoln-Way North High School in Frankfort Township after this school year, hope to address through legislation some of the concerns that parents and officials have raised both before and since the vote to close the school.
State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, said his staff filed a bill Friday that would set into law the "best practices" for closing or consolidating schools that would guarantee public input, financial transparency and a transition plan.
"There is never a good way to close a school, but my bill would outline guidelines to follow," Hastings said, adding that it is not designed to target any specific school district, nor is it designed to keep Lincoln-Way North High School from closing.
Since other districts in the state are facing similar financial issues, "I want to ensure that there is a process and a plan for the future," Hastings said.
"It's not a bad idea in terms of what school districts are facing in the state," Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 Supt. R. Scott Tingley said. "It's tough to find a textbook on this (decision-making process), but we have researched this."
The board voted in August to close North, one of the district's four high schools, to reduce a $5.2 million deficit and get off the state's financial watch list.
The district, which relied on revenue from growth over the years, now faces declining enrollment.
Push is on at OPS for more
long-term planning on maintenance, construction
Erin Duffy, omaha.com
October 4, 2015
-- How much life is left in that boiler? What will it cost to replace worn and frayed carpeting in 20 elementary schools?
The answers to these types of questions could help Omaha Public Schools put together more proactive plans for future maintenance and school construction.
Fresh off the passage of a $421 million bond measure to repair and rebuild some of the district’s middle-aged schools, OPS wants to move toward putting together a long-term capital plan that will catalog, schedule and budget future repairs and maintenance.
The district recently issued two requests for proposal, soliciting companies to evaluate and conduct in-person inspections of school roofs and all OPS schools and buildings. The findings will help OPS prioritize its building needs and decide which work must be done now and what can be put off for a few years, buildings and grounds director Mark Warneke said at a board meeting on Sept. 21.
Flint schools sitting on two dozen closed buildings in the city
Dominic Adams, mlive.com
October 2, 2015
-- FLINT, MI – The Flint School District is sitting on 24 closed schools.
The two dozen buildings often become havens for vandals, crime and are dangerous to the public when left unsecured.
Closed Flint schools have received thousands of 911 calls for police and firefighters to shuttered buildings over the last five years, according to information obtained by The Flint Journal in a Freedom of Information Act request.
The data showed there were 2,639 calls for service to closed schools, with an average of 1.3 calls per day. There were 49 calls to 911 for a shooting or shots fired.
Use the database below to search 911 calls to closed Flint schools.
A $16.4 million deficit has left the Flint School District will few options for maintaining the buildings -- they do have security systems and the grass is cut every other week, district officials said.
It costs the district $64,800 on average per elementary school per year to pay for security and utilities, while it cost $70,800 for the same services at closed secondary schools per year, the district said.
Philly superintendent wants more closures, conversions, new schools
Kristen A. Graham, philly.com
October 1, 2015
-- Sweeping changes are afoot for the Philadelphia School District, with closures, conversions to charter schools, and even new schools proposed Thursday by the superintendent.
In all, 5,000 students at 15 schools would be affected by the plan, which requires School Reform Commission approval. It has a price tag of up to $20 million.
Though the plan drew swift protests from some quarters, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. called the changes "exciting" moves designed to increase equity in city schools.
"Kids need great schools close to where they live," Hite said at a news conference.
Beeber Middle School in West Philadelphia - which staved off closure in 2013 but continues to struggle - would be phased out, shuttering in 2018. Grades would be added at Beeber's feeder schools, and the building itself would remain open to house SLA @ Beeber, the high school that now shares space with the closing middle school.
School board forms advisory committee on indoor environment
Amanda Yeager, The Baltimore Sun
September 30, 2015
-- In the wake of growing concerns about mold in multiple Howard County schools, Board of Education officials are set to launch a new advisory committee next week that will focus on the environment inside school buildings — though some parents say they don't think the group's mission goes far enough.
The Indoor Environmental Quality Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting on Oct. 6 from 4 to 6 p.m.
Its purpose, according to a Sept. 17 presentation to the board by Gina Massella, administrative director for high schools, and Anissa Dennis, administrative director for middle schools, is to ensure a “quality environment for students, teachers and all staff, and anyone who uses our facilities.”
The committee will use the Environmental Protection Agency's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools as a model for the policy it builds.
“As a government agency, [EPA] is in compliance with all federal, state and local laws,” Dennis said. The Tools for Schools framework, she added, is “quite extensive.”
Dennis said the framework goes beyond mold and covers heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; moisture control; pest management and cleaning and maintenance, among other things.
Cost for overhauling city’s schools could top $1b, Walsh says
Jeremy C. Fox, The Boston Globe
September 29, 2015
-- Mayor Martin J. Walsh pledged Tuesday to bring the city’s deteriorating public schools into the 21st century, but he warned that the effort won’t be cheap.
“You’re probably talking over a billion dollars,” Walsh said at an event at the McKay K-8 School in East Boston. “That’s just a rough estimate.”
Walsh said 65 percent of Boston school buildings were constructed before World War II, and fewer than half have been renovated.
The event Tuesday marked the formal launch of a 10-year master plan for Boston public schools facilities that Walsh announced in his State of the City address in January.
The School Department and the city are set to work with consultant Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates to develop recommendations by the end of 2016.
“It’s going to be our first comprehensive school capital plan in 20 years,” Walsh said. “It’s going to be going beyond reactive maintenance. It’s going to give us proactive strategies and [a] framework for success.”
Walsh acknowledged that it would be necessary to close some schools to “unlock more resources for every student. Access and equity is at the forefront of our concerns.”
Walsh said nothing is decided, but he expects some schools will merge under the plan.
School facilities: Why some rural residents near Las Vegas are feeling cheated
Ian Whitaker, Las Vegas Sun
September 29, 2015
-- SANDY VALLEY — Shana Hairston can still remember sitting in class in the old building on the Sandy Valley School campus.
The spacious, windowless classrooms dating back to when the school was founded in 1984 aren’t anything to get excited about, but they have sentimental value, just like the sapling she and her classmates planted in the dirt outside in the mid-90s, now a towering pine after all these years.
But a bad storm years ago caused flash flooding that sent a river of mud washing through campus. Hairston’s old classroom building was inundated with more than a foot of sludge that soaked into the structure. Mold grew, followed by a dank, musty stench. Not wanting to risk the health of the 300 elementary, middle and high school students that share the small campus, Principal Chris Lounsbery ordered the classrooms condemned.
Now Hairston is 25 and has a daughter, Natasha, attending second grade at the school. The condemned classrooms are still vacant, but they stand as a lasting symbol of dissatisfaction for this rural desert community, where California is a literal stone’s throw away and the economy is a mix of ranching, farming and the mining of minerals like zeolite.
For years, people like Hairston and her mother, Dawn Haviland, have been pushing the Clark County School District to honor a plan to renovate the aging campus and build much-needed classroom space.
Pawtucket school officials establish reserve fund to accelerate building upgrades
ETHAN SHOREY, The Valley Breeze
September 29, 2015
-- PAWTUCKET - The Pawtucket School Committee has voted to invest $500,000 of last year's school surplus in a new capital reserve fund, allowing officials to apply for funding from the state's School Building Authority.
The move is meant to help accelerate school building repairs across the district at a much cheaper cost to local taxpayers, said Supt. Patti DiCenso.
Under the SBA created by Gov. Gina Raimondo as part of her budget this year, the Pawtucket School Department would be eligible to receive 82.4 percent reimbursement for any health and safety projects approved to be funded through a portion of the $20 million state fund this year.
The School Committee voted unanimously last Thursday evening to move ahead with all capital fund project applications to the state as well as a request to apply for a capital fund loan request application.
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