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


D.C. Mayor Gray adopts new school boundary recommendations
-- Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post

District of Columbia: August 21, 2014 -- D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) adopted new school boundaries Thursday that are slated to go into effect for the 2015-2016 school year, altering the attendance rights of more than a third of the District’s public school families as part of an effort to encourage residents to invest in neighborhood schools. The plan is the first comprehensive overhaul of the city’s school boundaries in more than 40 years, and it aims to create a more coherent school system with predictable feeder patterns. Gray’s decision to accept the final recommendations of an advisory committee caps a contentious and emotional 10-month process, in which residents have worried about how the new lines will affect their children’s academic opportunities and their real estate values in a city where school quality varies dramatically, often along racial and socio-economic lines. “While change like this is never easy, it is in the best interest of the District — and especially our children — to move forward with the Committee’s recommended policies and boundaries,” Gray said in a statement Thursday. The announcement, made just days before the school year begins Monday, was timed to comply with a law that families should have at least a year’s notice before any boundary changes go into effect. Each D.C. home now will be assigned to one elementary, middle and high school, a departure from the current patchwork system, in which more than a fifth of all public school students have rights to attend multiple schools, a result of school closings and consolidations. The new map of neighborhood schools reflects a strong public desire for predictability, District officials say. While only about 25 percent of city students currently attend their assigned school, earlier proposals to replace neighborhood schools with schools that have regional or citywide lotteries were widely unpopular. About 28,500 of the 83,000 students in D.C. public schools — traditional and charter — live in areas that have been rezoned and are expected to receive letters soon informing them of the new plans. The changes will have an immediate impact on families enrolling in a D.C. public school for the first time when the annual lottery opens this December. But the vast majority of families will not be affected in the short term, as city officials have worked to phase in the changes to minimize disruptions. Anyone already enrolled in a school will be able to stay there, and students in third grade or older have the option of continuing through the middle schools and high schools they currently plan to attend. Younger students will be rezoned into their new middle and high schools unless they have a sibling attending their former school at the same time they will be there. Some parents have said the boundary process should be slowed down or stopped entirely, at least until a new mayor takes office. Many have said the District should focus on improving the quality of all schools before addressing boundaries, and some have said that any long-term changes to school assignment policies should be coordinated with charter schools that now serve about 44 percent of D.C. public school students.


California Announces $193.9 Million for School Construction Projects
-- Staff Writer, Imperial Valley News

California: August 20, 2014 -- Sacramento, California - The State Allocation Board (SAB) announced today that it has awarded approximately $193.9 million for school construction projects throughout the state. The SAB awarded approximately $100.5 million for 34 School Facility Program (SFP) projects within 21 school districts statewide. The state matching funds for SFP projects are distributed to local school districts to help finance shovel-ready school construction projects or reimburse districts for projects already completed using local funds. State funding for SFP projects is provided by bonds authorized under Propositions 1A, 1D, 47, and 55. In addition, the SAB has awarded approximately $93.4 million for 489 Emergency Repair Program (ERP) projects within 53 school districts. The ERP provides grant and/or reimbursement funding to school districts for the cost of repairing or replacing existing building systems or structural components that are broken or not functioning properly and which pose a health and safety threat to students and staff at eligible school sites. The ERP funds will be released automatically and should be deposited into district accounts within five weeks of today’s meeting. The 2014-15 California Budget provided $188.5 million to fund ERP projects. The Office of Public School Construction expects the remaining amount to become available as early as October. Additional projects will be presented at a future SAB meeting once funds are available.


Wake County releases draft 2015-16 student assignment plan
-- T. KEUNG HUI, News & Observer

North Carolina: August 19, 2014 -- CARY — Wake County’s newest student assignment plan is focused on sending students to schools near where they live, reducing how often children are moved and keeping schools full – but not on promoting diverse enrollments. School administrators presented Tuesday the first draft of a plan for the 2015-16 school year that they say focuses primarily on filling four new schools, reducing crowding at existing schools, cleaning up inefficient bus routes and minimizing the number of families with children on different calendars. The plan would mostly affect Apex, North Raleigh and Wake Forest and would transfer a relatively small percentage of Wake’s 153,000 students. The list of priorities used to develop the new plan only includes “minor adjustments” to balance student achievement levels at individual schools to keep them from having too many students from low-income families, where students tend to post lower scores. Administrators say they’re relying on providing more programs and resources to help schools with low test scores instead of relying on assignment to promote diversity – one of the things that Wake has been known for since the 1980s. “The primary tool that we’re using as a district to address student achievement in schools is not through assignment but through the multiple factors and the work that we do intentionally at those schools,” said Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance. Moore said administrators did not have data yet on how the draft plan would affect the number of high-poverty or racially isolated schools in the district. The plan will be reviewed by the public and school board for comment and potential changes. A second draft will be presented in October with the final draft going to the school board in November. Administrators hope the board will approve a plan in December.


Panel's report: Close three NP schools and rebuild
-- JESSICA BOISCLAIR, The Valley Breeze

Rhode Island: August 19, 2014 -- NORTH PROVIDENCE - After sifting through more than a dozen options for the North Providence school district's facilities overhaul, town and school officials finally narrowed it down to one master plan, which would ultimately close the three circa-1930 elementary schools. Members of the North Providence Facilities Committee met with Luis Torrado of Torrado Architects last Thursday, where he presented his final proposal for Phase 1 of the master plan. This $76.3 million master plan would go before the voters in Mid-June and if approved, the town would go out to bond. Through housing aid, Business Manager John McNamee said the district would be reimbursed 58 percent, leaving the town to foot a $49 million bill, after accumulating an additional $43 million in interest over 10 years. Torrado said that all three of the elementary schools, James L. McGuire, Stephen Olney and Marieville, were identified early on as needing to be replaced. "We looked at the ability to find land you could build new buildings on and were not successful in that because there is no land," he told the committee. "So we focused on, out of those three schools, which property can we build new schools on?" Torrado designed a plan to rebuild both Olney and McGuire in two stages. Phase 1A, he said, would include the rebuilding of the schools with enough space to accommodate the students, while keeping the existing buildings in tact. During Phase 1B, the students would be relocated to the new facilities and the construction crew would tear down the old building. Committee member William Floriani questioned Torrado about the traffic and congestion that might occur at the elementary schools during construction.


Pay cuts, school closures, steeper student losses on way, DPS plan shows
-- Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press

Michigan: August 19, 2014 -- Over the next few years, Detroit Public Schools will have fewer students and larger annual deficits than what officials projected just four months ago, according to new documents filed with the state. The 2014-15 school year could bring an additional 10% wage reduction for DPS employees. And while no schools will close this year, 24 schools will be shuttered beginning in 2015-16. The district gave an updated budget and deficit-elimination plan to the Michigan Department of Education last week, after the state said it wasn’t able to approve a version submitted in April. The updated version contains new details about ways DPS is trying to eliminate its multimillion-dollar deficit. Among the challenges DPS officials face: The budget they crafted earlier this year included $14.8 million in expected revenues from a county-wide school millage that voters turned down Aug. 5. District spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in an e-mail that the newplan offers the most conservative projections and estimates available. “Now it’s our job to continue to offer the best programs possible, delivered by the most qualified educators to help retain and attract students in order to beat these projections,” she wrote. The district will close 24 schools starting in the 2015-16 school year through 2019, according to the documents. The plan did not say which buildings would close, and a task force will be formed to study the district’s supply of excess seats.