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

Recognizing Green Schools on Earth Day
-- Staff Writer, U.S. Department of Education

National: April 22, 2014 -- To celebrate Earth Day, earlier today U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and District Sustainability Award recipients. Joined in an online live stream by Acting Chief White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots, Secretary Duncan celebrated the forty-eight schools and nine school districts chosen for their exemplary efforts in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education, including civics, STEM and green career pathways. Reiterating the Department’s support for green schools, Secretary Duncan praised the selected schools and districts, stating: “Today’s honorees are modeling a comprehensive approach to being green by encompassing facility, wellness and learning into their daily operations.” Duncan went on to say that the recipients “are demonstrating ways schools can simultaneously cut costs; improve health, and engage students with hands-on learning that prepares them with the thinking skills necessary to be successful in college and careers. The forty-eight schools and nine school districts were selected from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by thirty state education agencies across the country. The schools serve various grade levels, including 29 elementary, 16 middle, and 18 high schools, with several offering various K-12 variations. Many schools also serve pre-K students, demonstrating that health, wellness, and environmental concepts can be taught to every student, even the earliest learners. Selected schools and districts also demonstrated that their efforts not only improve physical, environmental, and nutritional health of school communities, but also save schools money in utility costs which can be applied directly back to where it is needed most – the classrooms. Read all about this year’s honorees and their tremendous achievements.

Mayor orders air conditioning for Chicago schools
-- Associated Press,

Illinois: April 22, 2014 -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered that air conditioning be added to every classroom in the Chicago Public Schools during the next five years. The mayor's office made the announcement Tuesday. More than 200 schools currently don't have air conditioning in every classroom. That's about 30 percent of the district's schools. Oppressively hot weather at the start of the current school year prompted the school district to provide hundreds of fans to make students more comfortable.

Do ‘green’ schools help kids learn?
-- Charlie Boss, The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio: April 21, 2014 -- Researchers know that energy-efficient “green” schools cost less to operate and offer a more-healthful learning environment for students and teachers. But scientists at Battelle want to study whether the environmentally friendly buildings help children learn. Researchers began comparing student test scores, attendance rates and discipline in green schools and traditional schools last year. Preliminary results show a link between green buildings and fewer disciplinary problems. “The idea is to better inform the public debate about sustainable design,” said Ian MacGregor, the project’s lead investigator and a senior research scientist for Battelle Energy & Environment. The study comes as state lawmakers debate whether to allow state agencies, including the Ohio School Facilities Commission, to continue to require new state-funded buildings to meet certain environmental standards. A bill the Senate has passed would ban state use of LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, standards. LEED is used as a worldwide benchmark for environmental building design. The House has yet to hold hearings on the proposal. Advocates of the ban say a recent update to LEED hurts Ohio businesses by discouraging the use of materials produced in the state. The latest version of LEED calls for companies to disclose the chemical ingredients in their building materials. Others, including the U.S. Green Building Council, defend LEED, saying green schools in Ohio use an average of 34 percent less energy and 37 percent less water than traditional buildings. Green schools also increase students’ exposure to daylight and improve indoor air quality, they say. Ohio has more than 130 green schools, and it leads the nation in LEED-certified schools. That’s because all schools built with state help must be LEED-certified.

Their school district dissolved, Buena Vista residents must repay $6.6 million in debt
-- Lindsay Knake,

Michigan: April 21, 2014 -- BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP, MI — Buena Vista Township businesses and residents will repay the defunct school district's debts for at least two years. Although the Saginaw County district has been closed since July 2013, it still has about $6.5 million in debt. The district has a projected deficit of $4.05 million and $2.5 million remaining on a bond voters passed in 2005. All that money must be repaid to the state. Next year, district residents also must decide whether renew a tax on businesses and secondary homes to keep whittling away at the deficit. “It’s going to be a tough sell to renew a millage for a school district that doesn’t exist,” said Chris Frank, Saginaw Intermediate School District assistant director of finance and business operations. If voters reject the millage, he said, the Michigan Treasury could tax all residents in the jurisdiction of the former school district to complete the debt collection. The state is legally required to collect the money the Buena Vista School District borrowed. Buena Vista School District dissolved in July 2013 at the order of the Michigan Legislature after a financial crisis left it unable to pay teachers. The school district closed for two weeks in May 2013 as the state and Saginaw ISD scrambled to find a way to educate Buena Vista students and return enough funding to the district to complete the school year. The state released up to $460,000 in the state per-pupil funding, allowing Buena Vista to provide classes to the about 300 students who remained. Sharply declining enrollment in the years before the district's demise led to the deficit, which was 60 percent of the school system's general fund budget as of June 2013. Each student took $7,776 in state funding when heading to a new school district.

7 W.Va. buildings given architecture awards
-- Caitlin Cook,

West Virginia: April 20, 2014 -- Seven West Virginia buildings, including a Morgantown elementary school and a Girl Scouts building in Charleston, were honored with awards from the American Institute of Architects at its dinner for the West Virginia Design Awards earlier this month. “The architecture profession always wants to recognize and promote the outstanding work of their peers and highlight the importance of their work of the past year,” said Jonathan Adler with the AIA-WV chapter. The winning projects exhibited sustainability features, extraordinary detailing and designs that mirrored the building’s purpose. Entries were judged by Gina Hilberry who serves as the president of the AIA-St. Louis chapter. Assemblage Architects was the only out-of-state firm to win an award. The firm received an honor award for excellence in architecture for its multi-purpose building at Camp Dawson. The other honor award for excellence in architecture in sustainable design went to Williamson Shriver Architects for its Eastwood Elementary School project in Morgantown. The project consolidated Easton and Woodburn Elementary Schools. The School Building Authority wanted the school to meet LEED silver certification sustainability standards. “There are a lot of demands and expectations there that need to be met at that level,” said Ted Shriver, lead architect for the project. Shriver said there are a number of ways to go about meeting that certification, geared toward energy savings and sustainability. “We looked at the ones that made sense for the location and type of facility that we were designing,” he said. “With sustainability there are some things that cost more than others. And there is only a certain amount of dollars that can be spent on a project so it’s a balancing act to make sure we meet the standards but also make sure it’s the right thing based on costs.”