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

Radical $835M plan proposed for school overcrowding
-- Trevon Milliard,

Nevada: October 7, 2015 -- A radical $835 million plan is under consideration for Washoe's overcrowded public school system that would only build a few new campuses and force all 33 suburban elementary schools into year-round classes. "Every school should be at no more than 100 percent capacity," said Timothy Dufault, the consultant paid $25,000 to find a cost-efficient way at mitigating crowding in the cash-strapped Washoe County School District, which is expecting school enrollments to only grow. "There needs to be significant reinvestment in the core (of Reno)." He advised the district on Tuesday to stop "chasing growth" in the suburban areas, especially since it can't afford to build many new schools. Instead, invest $100 million in the valley's aging, inner-city schools with high rates of poor and English-learning students, said Default, emphasizing his recommendations aren't political but based on economic figures and population forecasts for the valley. Dufault is suggesting construction of six new schools at $550 million, with some of these schools in suburban South Reno. But the focus is on low-income north Reno and Sparks. Under his proposal, all 33 suburban elementary schools outside the McCarran Boulevard loop would be forced onto year-round class schedules in a few years while the 29 inner-city and high-poverty schools would be spared and also receive investments. Only one new elementary school would be built "between the North Valleys and Spanish Springs area," according to the Cuningham Report.

Baltimore County Wants An Advance On Its School Construction Allowance
-- John Lee,

Maryland: October 6, 2015 -- Last month, Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot summoned Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to appear before the Board of Public Works Wednesday. They want to question him about why some Baltimore County schools don’t have air conditioning. But Kamenetz won’t be making the trip to Annapolis. Kamenetz instead has a “Coffee With Kevin” meeting with constituents at the Essex Senior Center. Meantime, the back and forth between Baltimore County and the State Comptroller over air conditioning in all the county schools continued Tuesday. Kamenetz laid out a plan to pick up the pace, but it depends on getting a lot more money from the state. Kamenetz, flanked by members of the General Assembly, County Council and School Board, said he’ll ask the state for an advance of about $177 million in school construction money to put toward replacing, renovating and air conditioning schools. He said that would allow the county to get every school done by December 2019, two years ahead of schedule. Franchot had suggested the county buy window air conditioners to help cool the schools while renovations take place, like Anne Arundel did.

Education disparities in N.O. start with brick and mortar say activists
-- Kendall Lawson, Louisiana Weekly

Louisiana: 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.

Modesto schools in need of $1 billion in repairs, upgrades
-- Nan Austin, The Modesto Bee

California: 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.

State senator's bill would address school closings
-- Susan DeMar Lafferty, Chicago Tribune

Illinois: 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.