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


Education Department Maps School Boundaries
-- Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week

National: July 29, 2015 -- Sometimes districts need a 20,000-foot look at how their policies affect students. A soon-to-be-released federal mapping project will give district leaders that perspective when it comes to school attendance zones. The School Attendance Boundary Survey, expected to be released this summer, will include maps of the attendance zones of some 90 percent of all schools in the country. The survey, and an accompanying mapping tool expected to be out in November, will help districts plan school sites and reduce gerrymandering that can lead to racial segregation in schools.


State auditor calls for education reform in light of Pa. schools bond downgrade
-- Rachel Bunn, Pennlive.com

Pennsylvania: July 28, 2015 -- Pennsylvania school districts are among the worst off in the nation, and for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said it continues to highlight the need for reform in the education system. Moody's Investor Service downgraded eight Pennsylvania school districts to a junk bond rating category in a July 20 report. This means that the bonds would be a higher risk to default and may have difficulty acquiring capital for an inexpensive cost. According to Moody's 20 percent of "speculative grade school districts" are in Pennsylvania. "This is troubling news for school districts and for residents because when bond ratings are downgraded it drives up the costs when schools need to borrow money to repair or upgrade their facilities," DePasquale said in a news release. "Simply increasing funding is not enough. We need to stem the hemorrhaging of school district finances and look for long-term, systemic changes." York City School District is the only district in the area to see its rating downgraded to a "Baa" rating or lower since March.


Doing the math, bond debt for California schools may not pencil out
-- NAN AUSTIN, The Modesto Bee

California: July 28, 2015 -- School buildings are made up of more than walls and windows. In any town, they hold the footprint of local history and tall hopes for tomorrow. High schools, particularly, become architectural touchstones. Modesto High outgrew its stately beginnings, but even stretched and pulled over a larger footprint, its main building maintains the face of a more gracious age. The brick-fronted early building of Turlock High School, made obsolete by earthquake-ready building codes and ravaged by fire, still serves the adults of Turlock Unified. To the north in both cities stand more recent additions to educational heritage: Enochs and Gregori high schools in Modesto, Pitman High in Turlock. All three boast a soaring architectural style, their buildings encompassing a massive interior space. The difference between the two eras is striking in style, use of space and – behind the scenes – in financing. The days of easily understood and argued school debt seem as bygone as brick facades. A report released July 21 by the nonprofit California Policy Center called “For the Kids” lays out $200 billion in existing school bond debt. In other words, taxpayers owe $32,074 for every child now in kindergarten through high school across California. A drive for equity is helping push those numbers. Schools in the older, poorer section of town do not look like those in newer, more prosperous developments, and advocates say they convey a sense of lowered expectations that hurts student achievement and prospects. Then there is age itself, the hallmarks of a life hard-lived as hundreds of youngsters crowd in to learn, lunch and play each day. The average age of Modesto City Schools’ campuses is 50 strenuous years. Though the district has pay-as-you-go plans in place to replace elderly roofs, replacing old pipes and outdated wiring does not come cheap.


Lafayette’s new school superintendent says a tax proposal to upgrade school buildings could go to voters
-- LANIE LEE COOK, The Advocate

Louisiana: July 24, 2015 -- Lafayette Parish School System facilities are in dire need of expansions and enhancements, with new Superintendent Don Aguillard estimating a bond or tax proposal for those needs could go to voters as early as next spring. With some schools out of space for temporary buildings, several in need of wing expansions and most in need of vital amenities like air-conditioned gyms, Aguillard on Monday said attention to those matters can’t wait any longer. Should the Lafayette Parish School Board pull together a proposal this month, voters could decide on it in the March election, Aguillard told the Acadiana Press Club. Otherwise, the board would have until October to put a measure on the April ballot. “We’re going to be moving quickly to try to put together some packages to present to the board,” Aguillard said. The school district has about $94 million in bonding capacity, Aguillard said. Should it retire its existing debts over the next two years, the district would be able to accrue new debts “at no additional cost to Lafayette citizens,” he added.


Aug. 1 ribbon cutting set for historic Neely School
-- Staff Reporter, The Salisbury Post

North Carolina: July 23, 2015 -- The Historic Neely School Foundation will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the century-old schoolhouse, located across the road from 150 Neelytown Road. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. and is open to the public. Julius Erastus Neely built the one-room schoolhouse with his bare hands in the early 20th century. Julius Neely — who was born in 1872, shortly after the end of slavery — and his wife Katie McKenzie Neely, believed in the importance of education for their children and other African American children in their rural area off Neelytown Road — and he set out to provide an appropriate facility for it.