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

Schools consider new maintenance plan
-- Tim Hodge, The Daily Herald

Tennessee: May 3, 2015 -- Maury County Public Schools need to shift direction on addressing facility and maintenance issues, Assistant Director of Operations Stan Breeden said. Breeden, who joined the system in January 2014, has been developing a plan for improving maintenance concerns across the district. He presented a tentative plan during the Maury County School Board’s Zoning and Facilities Committee meeting last week at Horace O. Porter School in Columbia. The plan includes enacting preventive maintenance schedules, looking at when to replace buildings and eying areas of growth for future needs — not just making repairs, Breeden said. “We understand that it’s an important responsibility to provide the very best physical environment for our students,” he said. The assistant operations director said the system needs a more-centralized approach. In the past, the respective school principal largely was in charge of the building’s needs, Breeden said. He proposed an increased reliance on the cloud-based maintenance program called “School Dude,” which about 7,000 districts use. The platform allows principals to submit repair requests into a system that creates an online work order, Breeden said. MCPS already use School Dude, but Breeden plans to further utilize the program to its full potential, he said. HVAC issues are a major concern across the district, Breeden said.

School districts wait for reimbursements for renovation projects
-- Matthew Santoni, TribLIVE

Pennsylvania: May 2, 2015 -- A delay and more budget uncertainty could be ahead for Pennsylvania school districts awaiting state money for hundreds of construction projects totaling $1.2 billion. Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed 2016 budget would reinstate a moratorium his predecessor imposed on applications for reimbursement and leave the funding level at about $306.2 million for projects in the system. Lawmakers had allowed the moratorium to expire in September and increased the budget for payouts under the 11-step approval process for the “PlanCon” program. Of an estimated 350 projects working their way through the state's pipeline, 200 had reached Part H — the stage just before the state starts paying the district. About 60 districts started getting payments totaling $46.6 million when legislators increased the funding, said Hannah Berrick, director of advocacy at the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. “We'll see that backlog continue to grow, and we'll be right back where we started. While we're optimistic about it, the prospect of a new moratorium gives us pause,” she said.

Chicago Public Schools proposes bare-bones capital budget
-- Juan Perez Jr. and Heather Gillers, Chicago Tribune

Illinois: May 2, 2015 -- Citing its bleak finances, Chicago Public Schools on Friday unveiled a $160 million capital budget that officials said will largely cover only projects that are already underway and "the most pressing repairs and maintenance issues" at schools. The district used the announcement to repeat calls for state lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner to help address a $1.1 billion school district deficit that is largely driven by ballooning pension costs that are now coming due. "I hate to keep repeating myself, but that's the harsh reality: We definitely need Springfield to step up and do its part in light of a projected $1.1 billion budget deficit," said Jesse Ruiz, the district's interim CEO and vice president of the Chicago Board of Education. "It is a bleak picture. That's the reality of the situation," Ruiz said in a conference call with reporters. "I hope all the citizens of Illinois acknowledge this, that we need to step up as Illinoisans and particularly as Chicagoans." CPS officials said the proposed capital budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is covered with $113 million in district funding and $47 million from the city of Chicago, federal funding and other sources. Those include money from tax increment financing districts that will be used for new athletic fields and play lots. The district said the proposed capital budget has no provisions for relieving overcrowding at some schools, an issue that is often the subject of public complaints at the school board's monthly meetings.

School districts consider options as enrollment drops
-- Rob Ryser,

Connecticut: May 2, 2015 -- NEWTOWN -- As the school system approaches its turnover season -- the time of year when it discharges high school seniors and prepares for a new class of kindergartners -- it does so with more concern than perhaps any time in a generation. Some 450 students will graduate from Newtown High School in June, but administrators expect only 235 kids to enter kindergarten in the fall. It is a sharp drop-off in enrollment that has everything to do with the continuing effects of the Great Recession and nothing to do -- for once -- with the tragic events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings two years ago. "This is not a tragedy-based decline," said Joseph Erardi, the first-year superintendent of Newtown schools. Indeed, Newtown is only the latest of several local school districts to commission a study of its declining enrollment and begin serious discussions about closing a school. New Milford has already been through a divisive process that pitted parents against school board members and concluded with a decision to close John Pettibone Elementary in June.

Cold Bay braces for the closure of its school
-- JoAnne Knight Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor, Alaska Dispatch News

Alaska: May 2, 2015 -- For many Alaska villages, the heart of the community is the school. Potlucks, community meetings, dances, tournaments, weddings and funerals all happen within the doors of the largest building; learning happens there, too. When a village of fewer than 100 people loses its school, the results can be devastating. A lifelong resident of the Aleutians, University of Alaska (distance education) student Candace Schaack is raising her daughter in Cold Bay. She lived in Nelson Lagoon years ago; that school also had its doors closed by the Aleutians East Borough School District. “This is a very negative impact on the community,” Schaack said. “The school is the heart of the town and without it there will be no room for growth and development. It’s so sad to even think about our town without our children.” Longtime district employee Kerry Burkhardt, the current principal-teacher at the Cold Bay School, concedes that the spring semester has been a very trying time for community members, parents, students and for her.