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

Sign This Letter Before May 1, and You Just Might Save a Public School
-- VALERIE JABLOW, educationdc

District of Columbia: April 25, 2016 -- Last week, public school parents and advocates in Ward 6 sent a letter to the council demanding that the proposed FY17-FY22 DCPS capital budget not be approved before clearer rationales are presented. They are asking parents and advocates in other wards to sign on before May 1. (Here is the link; a link to the budget is available here, at “DC Investments in School Facilities.”) The advocates note that the proposed DCPS capital budget appears unmoored from any rational prioritization, including use of the tool the council created last year for this purpose. As a result, several schools have been disappeared, Soviet-style, from the capital improvement plan. Other schools have found themselves with odd placeholder values that do not represent reality either because no renovation plans exist or no groups exist to help formulate those plans. But there is much more to the crisis of DC public school spaces than this budget represents: Ward 6 is among several areas (wards 7 and 8 being the most egregious) that have had relatively poor capital expenditures for DCPS schools since the beginning of the massive civic push in 1998 to renovate all DCPS schools. The 21st Century School Fund has created several charts documenting these inequities in capital expenditures by ward, from 1998 through 2015. In addition, the fund worked with Code For DC to create a new website that shows where our city’s massive investment in public school facilities, both charter and DCPS, has gone thus far.

Pa. school-funding bill goes into effect Monday
-- Dawn White,

Pennsylvania: April 25, 2016 -- HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Part of Pennsylvania’s budget will become law Monday nearly 10 months after it was due. The bill distributes money to fund school districts and authorizes borrowing for school construction costs. Governor Tom Wolf said he’ll allow the bill to go into effect without his signature. It’s a companion bill to the full budget. School districts will get $200 million in state aid under the bill. Deciding which districts should get the most money was a major part of the debate at the state House. Wolf wanted $400 million for school funding, but the state only got half of that. Republican lawmakers pushed against it because they didn’t want any new tax increases. The bill also authorizes up to $2.5 billion in borrowing for school construction costs. Districts complained they’ve been waiting for years for that money. Wolf also allowed the main budget bill to go into effect without his signature last month. That came after a long fight with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Small district, big growth: Fairfax schools propose school bond

Virginia: April 23, 2016 -- Spurred by a looming population spike, Fairfax Elementary School District officials will for the second time in six years ask voters this June to approve a multi-million dollar school construction bond. Fairfax will seek $19 million to build a new school, necessitated by the pending approval of a new apartment complex and the potential for another 300 to 400 homes to be developed in the area. It would cost homeowners in the district roughly $32 a year through the 25-year life of the bond, based on the average area home value of $103,000. “We're trying to jump on this and get our property and everything ready to be able to build,” longtime district board member Patsy Rowles said, adding that the 2,412-student, four-school district in southeast Bakersfield has already enrolled 120 new students this year. The district has seen staggering student growth since 2005. When officials asked for their last bond in 2010, $24.8 million Measure C, the student population had grown 40 percent in five years. Since then, it has grown another 10 percent, outpacing Kern County, which enrolled roughly 3.5 percent more students overall during the same period. Fairfax's growth has outpaced that of most other Kern County elementary school districts, enrolling more than 1,000 students between the 2010 and 2015 school years. “Ten years ago we had 1,200 students, then we just took off,” Fairfax Superintendent Michael Coleman said.

Maloney Would Create Green Schools, Good-Paying Jobs
-- Office of Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Hudson Valley News Network

National: April 22, 2016 -- In celebration of Earth Day, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) announced legislation at Arlington High School to provide funding to schools to encourage green development of their aging infrastructure. School Modernization And Revitalization Through (SMART) Jobs Act would authorize funding for the development of green schools, which would encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewables, and create numerous high-skilled jobs in the clean energy industry. “As a father, I believe we owe it to our children to adopt policies which will preserve our environment and create a healthier world for them to grow,” said Rep. Maloney. “Incentivizing our schools to adopt environmentally-responsible building practices creates a better learning environment for students while creating more good-paying high skilled jobs in the Hudson Valley.”

What info is needed to make Philly's schools healthier?
-- Jerry Roseman,

Pennsylvania: April 21, 2016 -- Protecting the health and safety of Philadelphia’s school children from hazardous school conditions is a fundamental and urgent public obligation. While certainly not all of the 214 District-operated schools have widespread, persistent and dangerously unacceptable building conditions, currently available data indicates there may be as many as 60 percent or more of our schools that are in need of serious remediation in order to adequately protect students and staff from exposures to lead, mold growth, inadequate air quality, and numerous “asthma triggers” in addition to other hazards. According to District data, about 85 percent of all Philadelphia school students are people of color and 87 percent are considered to be “economically disadvantaged.” These numbers matter when it comes to student health, well-being and educational achievement because this population is placed at increased risk from exposures to in-school environmental hazards. In my first blog post, I talked about how I believe that deficient building conditions are at an unacceptable degree for students and staff. I also said that the Philadelphia Federation of Teacher’s Union and Health and Welfare Fund were developing an action plan to remedy the situation. A critical first element of that plan requires incorporating all relevant data to understand the true scale and scope of the environmental hazards and building condition deficiencies we face. Describing, in detail, the current state of our schools, what specific problems exist where, how widespread the issues are, and what has been done to address them to date is crucial.

Klamath-Trinity school district secures $10M for mold problems
-- Hunter Cresswell, Times Standard

California: April 21, 2016 -- Cooperation between local tribes, legislators and the Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District resulted in the allocation of almost $10 million dollars in state funds to help with ongoing mold issues the district’s been dealing with for years. With this money secured and a plan in the works to cover future costs of mold abatement projects and building upgrades, Superintendent Jon Ray said he had tears in his eyes when he heard about the allocation. “Yesterday (that plan was) cemented into place and coming together,” Ray said Thursday. In February, all eight campuses in the district closed for two weeks, one of which was a scheduled week off, to give staff time to retrofit mold-free facilities into classrooms. Dangerous levels of potentially toxic molds were measured at Hoopa Valley Elementary School, Hoopa Valley High School, Jack Norton Elementary School, Orleans Elementary School and Trinity Valley Elementary School facilities. According to Ray, mold bloomed in these facilities because they were built in the 1950s and ’60s using building plans that weren’t designed for such a wet, rainy environment. The allocation was announced in a press release from state Sen. Mike McGuire’s office Wednesday evening.

Belleville District 118 outgrowing its school buildings
-- MARY COOLEY, Belleville News-Democrat

Illinois: April 21, 2016 -- Twenty kindergartners are bused away from their neighborhood school because there isn’t space for them at Union Elementary in Belleville. Two classes of sixth-graders — some 60 students — are receiving instruction at West Junior High School instead of next door at Abraham Lincoln Elementary, their official school. And at Roosevelt Elementary, a teacher takes art-on-a-cart to the 342 students because there isn’t space for a dedicated art or music room. Belleville District 118 has grown steadily by about 250 students in the last five years, according to the state board of education, but the buildings have not. The district also casts a wary eye to areas along South 11th Street and Frank Scott Parkway, which are platted for family-friendly subdivisions. Last year, the district hired a firm to look at options, including redistricting and construction of a new building. On Tuesday, the school board approved a measure that will allow the school district to borrow up to a total of $20 million toward the construction and renovations. The vote “does not lock us into anything,” said assistant superintendent Ryan Boike, but agreeing to the measure allows the district to keep exploring possibilities.

Elevated lead levels found in water at three D.C. schools
-- Perry Stein, The Washington Post

District of Columbia: April 21, 2016 -- Elevated lead levels at three D.C. elementary schools have raised concerns among parents and city leaders, and city officials announced Thursday that they are working to arrange lead poisoning tests for students. The water at the three schools — two in Northeast and one in Southeast D.C. — were tested in recent weeks, and city officials said all compromised water sources have been shut down. High levels of lead are linked to brain damage and developmental problems, including impulsive behavior, poor language skills and trouble retaining new information. Members of the D.C. Council scrutinized the issue at an education budget oversight hearing Thursday. The education committee’s chairman, council member David Grosso (I-At Large), pressed the Department of General Services (DGS) on why city schools, including newly renovated ones, were still showing concerning amounts of lead in their water. The DGS is responsible for lead testing in schools. “What is going on there?” Grosso said. “You can’t tell me that a modernized school’s building will allow for pipes not to be remediated for lead. That’s outrageous.”

Portable Classrooms Find Permanent Home In San Diego County Despite Heat, Noise
-- Leo Castaneda, KPBS

California: April 20, 2016 -- One striking thing about Scripps Ranch High School is how typical it looks. Opened in 1993, it’s not particularly modern, but it doesn’t seem outdated. Teal stripes accent the tan walls so familiar to San Diego students and teachers. Two-story buildings face a circular courtyard. In a rear parking lot is another common feature — portable classrooms. In a countywide survey, inewsource found that almost one in five classrooms in 35 school districts are portable. Click here to search the number of portables at your school Special Feature Click here to search the number of portables at your school These cheap and easy structures have been flagged for poor ventilation, and they are often either too hot or too cold. The sounds inside can be loud enough to justify a noise complaint. In Scripps Ranch, skunks and flooding have plagued the portables. In addition to health concerns, studies show school surroundings can negatively affect a student’s ability to learn.

Education panel signs off on closure of Bronx high school, after facing rare criticism
-- Alex Zimmerman, Chalkbeat

New York: April 20, 2016 -- The Panel for Education Policy signed off on shuttering a Bronx high school Wednesday night, the fourth district school closure under an administration that has called such measures a last resort. But unlike the de Blasio’s administration’s first three closures, which were approved with little pushback in February, some activists and educators criticized the administration for closing the Bronx Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies instead of continuing efforts to reinvigorate it. “If they wanted to revitalize the school they could do that,” said Jane Maisel, a member of the advocacy group Change the Stakes, before the vote. “We think it’s a very bad precedent.” The closure highlights a tension in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approach to New York City’s struggling schools, which has centered around a $400 million “Renewal” program designed to inject more resources into struggling schools in an attempt to improve them, rather than moving immediately to close them. FLAGS is a part of that program.

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