Overcrowding crisis: Should N.J overrule voters, approve $33M school expansion?
Adam Clark, NJ.com
July 5, 2015
-- FREEHOLD — The sign that hangs above the door says "library." But students at Park Avenue Elementary School don't come here to check out books.
The room has been overtaken, repurposed into seven miniature and makeshift classrooms partitioned only by thin, 6-foot temporary dividers. Students learning English as their second language sit between those dividers, meeting with teachers for small-group or one-on-one instruction.
They come here to learn basic skills, such as how to plot a number on a line. They come here to repeat "My dog can run fast" and other English-language phrases.
They come here because the school has so many students that every other space in the building, even the stage at the front of the cafeteria, is already occupied.
"Every one of these little classrooms represents a classroom that I need," school Superintendent Rocco Tomazic says, pointing to one of the classes.
The Park Avenue school, along with Freehold Learning Center and the Freehold Intermediate School, have become ground zero for Freehold Borough School District's overcrowding crisis. Emblematic of communities across the country with large immigrant populations, the K-8 district says it is overwhelmed by a decades-long influx of new students, many of whom are the children of undocumented workers.
Western Indiana district weighs merger of high schools
Staff Writer, WRAL.com
July 3, 2015
-- MARSHALL, IND. — A western Indiana school corporation that was formed when two districts were combined a few years ago now faces a discussion about whether to merge its two high schools because of declining enrollment.
The North Central Parke Community School Corp. met this week to discuss combining Rockville and Turkey Run high schools because of falling enrollment and revenue.
"One of the most difficult decisions any school board member must make is whether to close a school, change boundary lines or consolidate schools," Superintendent Tom Rohr told school officials and residents during a meeting Wednesday. The decision can "have an emotional impact on the communities involved, perhaps for several years."
Rockville and Turkey Run both have grade K-6 elementary schools and grade 7-12 junior/senior high schools. Rohr told the (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star (http://bit.ly/1LWYkh6 ) that the small enrollments at the two high schools limit class offerings as well as extracurricular activities.
The district had about 1,300 students this past school year — down nearly 100 from four years earlier.
Many parents say a consolidation is inevitable and hope it won't cause parents to pull their children from the schools in the rural area about 25 miles northeast of Terre Haute. Many parents in Muncie did that after the city's school board voted in 2013 to close one of its two high schools.
How should Arlington preserve the history of desegregation
Moriah Balingit and Elizabeth Koh, The Washington Post
July 3, 2015
-- Gloria Thompson remembers her new skirt and black-and-white leather shoes, and the admonition from her parents to not react if she was harassed. She remembers the short car ride to Stratford Junior High and the scrum of reporters that followed her. She remembers the long sidewalk to the school’s back entrance and the police officer who checked in with her at lunchtime to make sure she was okay.
And she wants others to remember, too.
Thompson, now 68, was one of four black students to cross Stratford’s threshhold in February 1959, making them the first in the state to desegregate a school following a lengthy court battle. Minutes and hours later, black children across the state took similar steps on a day when racial barriers fell in Virginia’s schools.
The building, an unremarkable block structure on Arlington’s Vacation Lane, now houses H-B Woodlawn, a special program for students in grades 6 through 12, and another program for children with special needs. But as the district prepares to renovate and convert it into a much-needed new middle school, Thompson and others want to see pieces of it preserved.
Schools get $300 million in state bond aid
Peter Wong, PortlandTribune
July 3, 2015
-- Oregon lawmakers, as one of their final actions of their 2015 session, approved $300 million in state bonds for seismic reinforcements and other building improvements in public schools.
Also among the bond allocations are $45 million for nonroad projects under Connect Oregon, $35 million for a handful of highway projects, including outer Powell Boulevard in Portland, $7.5 million for the Willamette Falls riverwalk project near Oregon City, and smaller amounts for projects around Portland and Eastern Oregon.
Bonds also will pay for the state's $200 million share of the Knight Cancer Center at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland — lawmakers had committed that money previously for the project, which has reached its $500 million match — and a $17.7 million state share of a multimillion-dollar replacement of the Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland.
No money is proposed for seismic reinforcement and other renovations at the Capitol, which had a total price tag of $337 million, $34.5 million of which came from a bond issue two years ago for design and engineering.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, was its most prominent champion, and called it “a devastating loss.”
“But it is not my style to hold up a session over one issue, even one as important as this,” he said Friday.
Schools adding building security as part of summer maintenance
Syeda Ferguson, TheTimesHerald
July 3, 2015
-- Schools are beefing up building security and updating lock-down procedures while students are away for the summer.
Local districts are making the changes as part of routine and ongoing summer maintenance projects.
The security measures are not in response to any specific event. They stem from parents, local law enforcement and school officials all identifying student safety as the No. 1 priority, school officials said.
Added security measures at Port Huron schools involve changes to building entryways so that all visitors will be rerouted through the main offices, said Kate Peternel, the district’s executive director of business services.
Other changes at local districts such as Brown City are the addition of surveillance cameras in school buildings and parking lots.
At the county level, a safety planning committee representing area schools is in the evaluation stages of a unified plan that includes stress debriefing training and mass casualty exercises, said Jeff Friedland, director of St. Clair County Homeland Security Emergency Management.
CITY COUNCIL ENDORSES ALEXANDRIA SCHOOLS LONG RANGE FACILITIES PLAN
Chris Teale, Alexandria Times
July 2, 2015
-- It has been two and a half years in the making, but a joint city council-Alexandria City Public Schools framework to cope with rapid student enrollment growth is now in place after endorsements last month from both the school board and city council.
The ACPS Long Range Facilities Plan was formulated by a work group that included members of city council, the school board, as well as representatives of local PTAs, The Campagna Center and the community, as well as city staff from a variety of departments.
It anticipates that enrollment will grow steadily from the 2014-2015 figure of around 14,000 students to 17,419 by the 2024-2025 academic year, and lays out a number of options the system can use to cope with increases at the elementary level. It proposes building a new elementary school on the West End and a new middle school in another location in the city while also renovating existing sites. It also recommends allowing Cora Kelly and Jefferson-
Houston to absorb overages of students from Matthew Maury and Mount Vernon elementary schools.
Princeton sues manufacturer over school PCBs
Elaine Thompson, telegram.com
July 2, 2015
-- PRINCETON - The town has filed a lawsuit against the largest manufacturer of PCBs to recoup the cost of removing the dangerous chemical from the Thomas Prince School.
The town is asking for $700,000 in the property damage civil suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Worcester. The defendants are Monsanto Co., the exclusive manufacturer of PCBs in the United States from 1935 to 1978; Pharmacia LL, the new name of Monsanto; and Solutia Inc., a global chemical manufacturer formed in 1997 by the divestiture of Monsanto Co., according to the lawsuit.
PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl, is an odorless man-made chemical composed of chlorine atoms attached to a double carbon-hydrogen ring. PCBs have been demonstrated to cause a variety of serious health effects, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system. PCBs, which cause cancer in animals, are also considered probable human carcinogens.
PCBs were widely used in the construction and renovation of schools between 1950 and 1978. The chemical was found in the caulk around windows, door frames and other masonry building materials. Manufacture of the product was discontinued in 1979.
NVUSD Receives Nearly $1 Million for Seismic Upgrades
SUSAN C. SCHENA, Napa Valley Patch
July 2, 2015
-- Following a hearing June 30 at the State Allocation Board in Sacramento, Napa Valley Unified School District will receive $951,423 to reimburse the district for seismic upgrade work completed at Bel Aire Park Elementary School and Vintage High School in August 2013.
The State Board had authorized the funds in August 2014, four days before the South Napa Earthquake, but because the State Department of Industrial Relations did not receive some required paperwork in a timely manner, the district was in danger of losing the grant money due to non-compliance with requirements regarding paying prevailing wages on construction projects. NVUSD appealed the question at Tuesday’s hearing and the appeal was granted.
It is expected that NVUSD will receive the funds in July.
“These funds go a long way in helping us to be proactive in our safety upgrades for our students and staff at our schools,” said NVUSD Superintendent Patrick Sweeney. “Once we have this reimbursement in hand, we can look to moving forward with more of the 15 projects on our seismic upgrade projects list.”
Don Evans, head of school planning and construction at NVUSD, said, “We have always required that prevailing wages and benefits be paid on our projects. The issue was one of timely paperwork to prove our compliance.”
Auditor: D.C. school system’s capital program lacks accountability
Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post
District of Columbia:
July 1, 2015
-- The District government has failed to adequately monitor its school modernization program, leading to violations of multiple laws designed to improve transparency and accountability, according to a report being released Wednesday by the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor.
The report, covering fiscal years 2010 through 2013 and $1.2 billion in spending, found that the Department of General Services and D.C. Public Schools did not provide basic financial management, allowing for the misuse of taxpayer funds.
“Across the city, public school students are benefiting from modern, new facilities, and there is much to commend in the priority given to school construction,” said D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson. “But District resources are finite. We owe it to taxpayers to see that modernization funds are spent well and prudently, to assure our ability to complete the task of upgrading all of our schools.”
The capital program came under new scrutiny this year after dozens of school projects were pushed back in the renovation queue in Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s $1.3 billion, six-year school construction plan. The changes were the result of major cost overruns and a slowdown in capital spending as the city prepares to pay down what amounts to a major debt load after several years of aggressive borrowing.
"Hazardous, unsanitary" conditions inside city schools
Kristen Graham, Philly.com
July 1, 2015
-- City Controller Alan Butkovitz Wednesday detailed what he said were "hazardous and unsanitary" conditions inside Philadelphia schools.
He said he found immediate health hazards that went unaddressed by the Philadelphia School District.
Over four months, members of the Controller's staff visited 20 schools throughout the city as a followup to a 2008 report citing problems with school facilities. Things were much the same, Butkovitz said.
His staff found "fire hazards, electrical hazards, safety and tripping hazards, water damage, damaged or deterioriated masonry, and other damaged building elements," the report said. They believe the schools they examined are emblamatic of others across the district.
Among the problems were a 600 volt electrical closet left open in an auditorium where children could access it; asbestos insulation in a hallway that was not properly sealed; and water damage at 95 percent of the schools visited.
In some bathrooms, cockroaches were found on floors and toilets had waste permanently in them.
"That's not something that happens in a first-world public facility," Butkovitz said. "That's totally unacceptable."
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