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


Bowser Keeps School-Boundary Changes Mostly Intact, With Two Tweaks
-- Aaron Wiener , Washington City Paper

District of Columbia: February 27, 2015 -- After criticizing her predecessor Vince Gray's plan to redraw school-assignment boundaries for exacerbating geographic inequality, Mayor Muriel Bowser has opted to keep that plan largely intact, making just two tweaks aimed at mitigating the effects of the changes. Gray adopted a plan last August for the first comprehensive reworking of the school boundaries in more than 40 years. His plan would have streamlined the complex network of feeder patterns that have left well-regarded schools overcrowded while others have closed due to under-enrollment. But it also threatened to force some families to send their children to lower-performing schools, leading Bowser to pledge revisions in order to ensure that Rock Creek Park and the Anacostia River wouldn't become more entrenched dividing lines between the city's haves and have-nots. But the revisions Bowser ultimately settled on, which she released today, don't substantially alter Gray's proposal. Instead, there are just two changes. The first aims to blur the divide formed by the Anacostia River. Under Gray's plan, Eastern High School's boundaries would have aligned largely with those of Ward 6, and students east of the Anacostia in Ward 7, who previously had access to Eastern, would have been moved to Woodson High School. Bowser has decided to allow students at Kelly Miller Middle School, in Ward 7, to attend either Woodson or Eastern. That allows these students to cross the river and attend what many expect to become the higher-performing Eastern, but, as Bowser office acknowledges in a "frequently asked questions" document it released today, it's likely to mean a smaller student population at Woodson.


Gladbrook school to close next fall to cut costs
-- Andrew Wind, WCF Courier

Iowa: February 25, 2015 -- GLADBROOK | Only two of the three Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community Schools' buildings will remain open next fall. The Board of Education Wednesday voted 5-2 to close Gladbrook's elementary and middle school building during an emotional meeting that lasted more than two hours. All students in the district will go to the two remaining schools in Reinbeck. They will attend Reinbeck Elementary until sixth grade and what is now the district's high school starting in seventh grade. Despite snowy weather that caused the district to dismiss students early Wednesday, the community came out in force for the meeting, largely filling the bleachers on one side of the Gladbrook school's gym. Four different school closing and grade configuration options had been presented to the board, which is striving to balance the 2015-16 budget. Closing the school in Gladbrook was one option while the three others included various configurations of students on the Gladbrook campus and at the high school in Reinbeck. Reinbeck Elementary School would have been closed in those scenarios. Moving all students to Reinbeck is projected to save the most -- about $402,000 through staff, transportation and utility cost reductions. That's between $100,000 and $150,000 more than the other options. Declining enrollment -- and the accompanying drop in state funds -- caused the district to look at cutting budgets.


Schools across county need HVAC fixes
-- Sarah Plummer, The Montgomery Herald

West Virginia: February 25, 2015 -- The general indoor air quality review of all Fayette County schools by the state Office of School Facilities outlines the district’s desperate need for funds to upgrade HVAC systems in nearly all schools. Michael Pickens, executive director of the West Virginia Department of Education Office of School Facilities, wrote, “It will take a substantial capital investment to bring all of the mechanical systems up to current standards and improve indoor environmental conditions. In addition to the IAQ (indoor air quality) concerns, due to the age and exceeding life cycle of the equipment, some of the mechanical systems have the potential to experience a failure that would result in the building being without heating and cooling.” Gatewood Elementary and Ansted Middle schools have already experienced boiler issues and are being heated with temporary electric units in each classroom. Pickens said space heaters “are less than desirable and require the county to expend funds that only provide a temporary fix. Those funds would be better utilized toward permanent solutions,” and planning these upgrades should be a priority for Fayette. Ansted has received funding for a replacement boiler from the School Building Authority, and the installation is expected to go out for bid soon, said David Keffer, director of operations. Planning a countywide HVAC upgrade would be cost-prohibitive as the district only has an annual facility repair and upgrade budget of $1.2 million. As an example of cost, the Ansted boiler replacement is expected to cost more than $700,000. In December the School Building Authority allocated $630,000 toward the project. School system Treasurer Paula Fridley explained the district has an overall maintenance budget of $7.2 million, but that includes all operational funds like custodial salaries ($2.2 million), utilities ($1.8 million), energy management loan payments ($800,000), and cleaning supplies ($400,000).


D.C. schools chancellor recommends overhaul of capital planning process
-- Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post

District of Columbia: February 25, 2015 -- D.C. Schools chancellor Kaya Henderson is calling for an overhaul of the process for mapping out school modernizations in the coming years, saying that the renovations have become overly political and prohibitively expensive. “My very honest assessment is that the whole CIP process is jacked up,” she said, referring to the Capital Improvement Plan, a six-year capital budget and construction plan that outlines the timing for school modernizations. The queue for renovations is included in the mayor’s budget and submitted to the D.C. Council each spring. It gets rearranged annually, with some projects moving up or back or growing in scale and price tag. It also typically gets adjusted again halfway through the year. The city has invested more than $1 billion in school renovations in recent years, turning old buildings marked by decades of neglect into state-of-the-art facilities. But many communities are frustrated about schools that have had partial renovations or none at all. Henderson said she "can’t bear” to go through another spring" fielding reactions to changes in the timeline for construction. She proposed developing a task force within the next year that would come up with a way to develop the capital plan according to some “very transparent” and “logical” criteria rather than “how loudly your community screams.”


School Facilities Committee to seek $15 million for health and safety
-- JESSICA BOISCLAIR, The Valley Breeze

Rhode Island: February 24, 2015 -- NORTH PROVIDENCE - With time running out to submit enabling legislation for the $76.3 million school district facilities overhaul, the North Providence Facilities Committee decided to move forward on $15 million in immediate health and safety needs, which does not include renovations for the three 1930s-era schools set to be demolished under the master plan. The motion to delay the main project came after committee members learned of the March 1 deadline for new legislation. State Rep. William O'Brien, of District 54 in North Providence, told the committee at the Feb. 19 meeting it would have to wait until January to seek enabling legislation for the $76.3 million bond. But, he said, "You still have time to put forward the health and safety bill and get that money." Finance Director John McNamee said because the money is being sought for immediate health and safety at the schools, the legislation for that could be introduced at the Statehouse anytime before May.