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

Excessive lead levels reported at 6 schools in Tacoma, Wash.
-- Mike Kennedy, American School and University

Washington: April 26, 2016 -- A day after the Tacoma (Wash.) district disclosed that two schools were found to have extremely high levels of lead in their water, officials revealed that tests at four more schools showed high lead levels. Meanwhile, the district’s safety and environmental health manager, who is responsible for monitoring test results, apparently failed to report the excessive readings to district administrators, and has been placed on paid administrative leave. The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that the district has alerted parents of students at Whittier, DeLong and Manitou Park elementary schools and in the Madison Head Start program that tests performed in 2015 showed high lead levels in isolated area of those schools.

Medford School Board discusses increase in state funding for deferred maintenance

Minnesota: April 25, 2016 -- MEDFORD — Thanks to the approval of the Long Term Facilities Maintenance law last year, Medford School district is receiving an increase in funding for priority facilities projects, effective for fiscal year 2017. At the school board meeting on April 18, Medford School District Superintendent Rich Dahman called the increase in funding from the Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue a “pretty good chuck of money” compared to what they have received in the past. In the past, Medford received funding for health and safety projects and deferred maintenance projects. The new legislation combined the two funds and allocated more funding for the creation of the Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue. The Minnesota Legislature established the Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue program to give school districts access to alternative facilities funding in hopes that school buildings and grounds can be responsibly maintained. “I think it is a good idea. It allows us to be more forward thinking in our planning,” reported Dahman to the school board members.

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.