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


Voters approve extension of half-penny sales tax for schools in Orange
-- Lauren Roth, Orlando Sentinel

Florida: August 27, 2014 -- Orange County voters on Tuesday agreed to pay for 10 more years of school construction and renovation, continuing a half-penny sales tax that has been in place for more than a decade. Voters also cast ballots in School Board races across Central Florida, and in Orange County, incumbent Joie Cadle led teacher Joshua Katz by fewer than 100 votes. With all precincts reporting, 64 percent of voters supported extending the sales tax, which first passed in 2002. The $2 billion it is expected to raise will be used to replace or refurbish 59 schools and upgrade technology. "Our voters want to do right by our children, and they have done that," said Dick Batchelor, a consultant who headed this year's Change 4 Kids campaign in support of the tax, as well as the original initiative 12 years ago. The tax money will repair or replace schools including Union Park Elementary; the four county tech schools; and Boone, Colonial and Winter Park high schools. District Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said Tuesday that she is "thrilled beyond words," and School Board Chairman Bill Sublette said the vote is evidence that "voters trust us to finish the job we started." But Marcus Robinson, an activist concerned that the district did not renovate Richmond Heights Elementary, said he thinks the vote just means residents are misinformed. "This is not over," he said, vowing to fight district efforts to extend a 1-mill property tax, which will be on November's ballot. Because of Tuesday's vote, the total sales tax in Orange will remain at 6.5 percent. Nearly 40 of the projects that will be funded by the tax extension were among 136 the School Board first promised to voters in 2002. The current tax, which runs out in 2015, will pay for the construction or renovation of 94 schools.


Facility maintenance report calls for $600 million
-- Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Maryland Community News Online

Maryland: August 27, 2014 -- Six hundred million. That’s the dollar amount one contractor recommends Charles County Public Schools spend on renovations for its school buildings during a 10-year period. But in the past 10 years, the school system has funneled $60 million of its own funds into school improvements. For some, the disparity of the two numbers highlights what they say is the squishiness of a new study of the county’s public schools and the long road school and county officials have ahead to restore some of the school system’s more aged facilities. The county commissioners, on the prompting of state official David Lever, who specializes in public school construction matters and reports to the Board of Public Works, launched the study with an outside contractor, Baltimore-based GWWO Inc./Architects, in late fall 2013. The $250,000 report, on the dime of the commissioners, would provide the board of education, school and county officials and the public with a look at the state of the county school buildings — a comprehensive roadmap at the successes and failings of the infrastructure of each building, as well as the optimal price tag for the improvements that would bring the schools up to the school system’s standards. The study serves only as a suggestion for school officials. Dubbed as a draft of a 10-year System-Wide Capital Improvement Plan, the report offered recommendations to mitigate overcrowding in schools, particularly at the elementary level. The company estimated 10 schools would be 121 percent above capacity by 2022 if no action is taken.


Funds sought to repair Rosenwald school
-- Bill Walsh, StarNews Online

North Carolina: August 26, 2014 -- Come November, Pender County voters will decide whether to approve a $75 million bond for new school construction and existing school renovations. But one Pender County resident is working to raise funds to renovate a historic school building that is no longer used. Between the founding of the Rosenwald Fund in 1917 and its end during the Great Depression (1932), the African-American residents of Pender County built 19 Rosenwald schools on 15 different sites. A total of 813 Rosenwald schools were built in North Carolina, more than any other state, and Pender County led the region. Claudia Stack of Rocky Point is spearheading an effort to raise $5,000 before winter sets in to pay for a new roof on the former Lee’s Chapel School, a Rosenwald school near Maple Hill built in 1923-24. It’s a necessary first step in preserving the structure from any further damage. On Aug. 23, she and a group of volunteers planned to remove a false ceiling that was put in the building some years ago, and which is no longer serving any purpose while it is also getting in the way of the eventual rafter repair and re-roofing. African-Americans paid the same taxes in support of public education as their white counterparts, but their children were not allowed to attend the schools their tax dollars helped build, Stack said.


District to lease four more school buildings to charters
-- Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post

District of Columbia: August 26, 2014 -- The District is making four more surplus school buildings available for long-term lease by public charter schools this fall. This is the third group of buildings to become available since early 2013, when Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) first announced a list of 16 buildings the city intended to release for short- or long-term lease. Abigail Smith, deputy mayor for education, said the city is releasing the buildings over time in small batches so that the complex selection and negotiation process can be managed well and to give more charter schools a chance to compete for them. Charter advocates have long criticized the city for sitting on buildings left empty when schools close or consolidate while new charters must scramble for space. Shining Stars Montessori Academy, for example, secured a building just days before school opened this year after last-minute problems with two other locations. “What happened to Shining Stars is an extreme example of what is typical for charter schools, which is a fairly desperate struggle to get the buildings they need to open in or expand into,” said Robert Cane, executive director of FOCUS, a pro-charter advocacy group. The school buildings the city will make available are Fletcher-Johnson on Benning Road SE; Gibbs on 19th Street NE; Mamie D. Lee on Gallatin Street NE; and M.C. Terrell-McGogney on Wheeler Road SE.


Montgomery, state officials optimistic on 2015 school construction bill
-- Lindsay A. Powers, Maryland Community News Online

Maryland: August 25, 2014 -- Some Montgomery County and state officials are hopeful the General Assembly will pass a bill in 2015 that would direct more school construction money to the county after efforts in the last legislative session to secure such funding fell through. After a Monday event at Wilson Wims Elementary School — built to relieve overcrowding in the Clarksburg area — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said he feels “very confident” state lawmakers can “make some progress” in the upcoming session toward a funding method that would help the county accommodate its growing student body. As students returned to class on Monday, the county school system faced its largest enrollment increase from one school year to the next since 2000. Montgomery schools will have 154,153 students this year — 2,864 more than last year, according to Bruce Crispell, director of the school system’s Division of Long-range Planning. Leggett and other officials said they think a successful November election for Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown might provide a boost to school construction legislation in the 2015 session. Brown already has been part of an administration that has provided “record” investments in the county’s education system, Leggett said. “I’m confident given at least the expression of the candidates running for governor, especially Mr. Brown, that we have an excellent opportunity of putting together a package collaborating with the local communities to in fact at least move forward and getting us the resolution that we want,” Leggett said.