School construction becomes big business for Sonoma County designers, builders
ROBERT DIGITALE, The Press Democrat
August 28, 2016
-- This is the era of billions when it comes to quantifying all the construction work in the works at Sonoma County’s public schools and community college.
In recent years county voters have approved more than $1 billion in bonds to finance improvements at local school and college facilities, an unprecedented figure.
It is just the first phase of the funds sought for work that education officials hope one day to complete. Santa Rosa City Schools currently has bond financing for about a fifth of the $1.2 billion of projects in its master plan, and Santa Rosa Junior College has a list of roughly $1 billion in desired upgrades and deferred maintenance.
The efforts follow a significant amount of school construction already completed. The North Bay’s largest design firm, Quattrocchi Kwok Architects in Santa Rosa, counts $1.5 billion worth of education projects that it has designed in Northern California over 30 years in business.
It all adds up to much improved facilities for students and a significant injection of money into the local construction industry, according to school and building officials.
“You’re making an investment in the future of your community,” SRJC President Frank Chong said.
The college, he said, plans in the coming years to upgrade classrooms and construct a new science building to train the next generation of workers in public safety, health care and other fields.
Slightly more than 70,000 students are enrolled in the county’s 40 school districts. Roughly 30,000 more students take classes through the junior college, which has campuses and facilities in five locations.
Pennsylvania district closes all 4 of its schools for mold tests
Mike Kennedy , American School & University
August 26, 2016
-- The East Pennsboro Area (Pa.) School District has closed all four of its schools while workers test the facilities for mold contamination.
The district, based in Enola, Pa., closed all its schools Wednesday and says they will remain closed while district officials conduct air quality tests.
The schools affected: East Pennsboro Elementary, West Creek Hills Elementary, East Pennsboro Middle and East Pennsboro High.
Mold was discovered Tuesday at East Pennsboro High and Elementary, and students at those two campuses were sent home early. District officials subsequently decided to conduct environmental tests at those campuses as well as East Pennsboro's other two schools. Classes throughout the district were canceled.
Southwest-area elementary schools hoping to relieve overcrowding issues
GINA ROSE DIGIOVANNA, Las Vegas Review-Journal
August 25, 2016
-- Under clear skies on May 18, the Ries Rockettes — Ries Elementary School’s cheer team — added a little grace to an otherwise dirt-and-shovel affair. Heavy machinery loomed in the background.
The occasion: Clark County School District’s groundbreaking for an as-yet unnamed elementary school at the corner of Arville Street and West Mesa Verde Lane.
For kids returning to class on Aug. 29 — as well as parents and staff members — there’s more change in the air than the smell of autumn.
According to the school district, the Arville-Mesa Verde site marked the second of six new elementary schools to break ground in 2016, with funds from the school district’s 2015 Capital Improvement Program. The new school will ease the burden of five nearby, overcrowded elementary schools.
“I think it will be good ‘cause a lot of the schools on this side are going year-round because they’re getting too crowded,” said Trew Akiyama, a Rockette, who’s most comfortable doing flips. She’s also a fifth-grader at Ries.
While her school is fun, she said, “It’s slightly crowded.”
Portland Public Schools Clear Gardens For Consumption
Rob Manning, OPB FM
August 25, 2016
-- Portland Public Schools said Thursday it’s OK to eat vegetables grown in the dozens of community gardens on school grounds.
That reverses advice from last week telling Portlanders not to eat the school garden produce due to high levels of lead in school water used to irrigate the plants.
PPS based its original advice on a statement from the Oregon Health Authority’s web site. District spokeswoman Courtney Westling says the new guidance comes after discussions with OHA.
“We’re no longer recommending not to eat produce from school gardens,” Westling said. “The caveat of course is that – and we’ve been open about this — is the kitchens faucets are not being used to prepare food, so we still cannot use kitchen sources to wash produce from school gardens.”
Toxic soil remains a mystery at school site
Scott Forstner , The Morgan Hill Times
August 25, 2016
-- How harmful soil toxins returned to a 10-acre plot of land in northeast Morgan Hill where local school officials plan to build a brand new $20 million elementary school remains a mystery.
Meanwhile, state officials are in the process of informing hundreds of residents of the upcoming property cleanup plan, and assessing the neighbors' concerns about the nearby presence of agriculture-related toxins.
More than 10 years ago, the same property, farmed by the Borello family for decades before being donated to the school district, was cleared by the State Department of Toxic Substances Control after a bioremediation process was used to cleanse the soil.
However, the same dangerous pesticides, including dieldrin and toxaphene, were detected in the soil in 2014 when the school district hired an environmental consultant to conduct its own site assessment.
“DTSC certified the site in 2005,” according to Jorge Moreno of the DTSC’s Office of Communications, who answered questions posed by the Times in email form.
School officials, desperate to lock up any remaining plots of land within the city large enough to build new schools, are eager to find an effective resolution. On Wednesday, Assistant Superintendent Kirsten Perez said: “Given the serious nature of the toxins, staff is recommending that we off-haul the contaminated soil instead of using bio-remediation.”
School board candidates rake in contributions from construction industry
Annie Martin, Orlando Sentinel
August 25, 2016
-- en new schools open in Orange County, the campuses bear a plaque with the names of the school board members, the architect and the construction manager leading the project.
There's another place some of those names often pop up: school board candidates' contribution lists.
Engineers, architects, contractors and others in the construction industry are among the largest contributors to school board campaigns, mostly to incumbents. The practice is legal, and candidates say contributors have no advantage in the bidding process for upcoming projects.
In all, the construction industry donated at least $24,750 to four incumbents in Orange and Seminole counties. Voters will go to the polls Tuesday to elect school board members.
Maintaining empty school buildings expected to come with big cost
Heather Norris, Carroll County Times
August 25, 2016
-- The cost of maintaining Carroll County's closed school buildings could far exceed what has been budgeted for doing so in the coming year, the Board of Commissioners learned Thursday.
The county has been looking at what to do with school buildings left vacant after last year's decision by the Carroll County Board of Education to close three county schools: North Carroll High, New Windsor Middle and Charles Carroll Elementary.
While the school system will hold onto the New Windsor building for the time being, the Board of Education is scheduled to hand over possession of North Carroll and Charles Carroll to the county in October. Staff indicated Thursday that they expect that date to be pushed back as a result of ongoing appeals over the closures, but the commissioners have said they want to formulate a plan for the future of the buildings as soon as possible. Doing so, they said, would provide nearby residents with information about the extent to which the buildings — both of which are used heavily for community programming — will be available for public use.
No matter what the county decides to do with the buildings, it will come with a cost, county staff told the board in a Thursday report on projections for future costs associated with the schools.
How Investment Banks Cash in on School Construction
Paul Perry, Priceonomics
August 25, 2016
-- When Americans vote in the local school board elections every few years, they elect the individuals who oversee one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects: the construction and maintenance of America’s nearly 100,000 schools.
Any given school board member will be responsible for only a piece of that project. But, taken together, schools are the nation’s second largest public infrastructure investment after transportation. Roughly 55 million Americans (1 in 6) set foot in our public schools every day, according to the National Council on School Facilities, and they occupy an area equivalent to nearly 3,000 Empire State Buildings. There isn’t a public institution in the country that touches the lives of more Americans.
In other countries, provincial or national governments manage education systems, with varying levels of discretion for local officials. But in the United States, schools operate on the principle of local control, which means that the governing and management of public schools is done by locally-elected or appointed representatives such as school boards or school committees.
The United States is nearly unique in this respect, and when you think of schools as an infrastructure project, local control presents a unique problem: it’s inefficient and inequitable.
It’s inefficient because you’re asking every local school board in the country to borrow millions of dollars to construct or renovate school buildings. Inevitably, when a tiny school board works with financial firms to borrow money, they get fleeced. It’s inequitable because smaller school districts with less taxable wealth are hit with higher fees, which means that the poorest communities get the least out of their education dollars.
This is one of the unrecognized downsides of local control in America. We spend too much to get too little from school construction, paying billions to financial firms like investment banks and consultancies that could be spent on teacher salaries, technology for students, and specialized tutoring.
Mold problem at West Vigo High School serious
Sue Loughlin, Tribune-Star
August 24, 2016
-- Vigo County health and school district officials met Wednesday afternoon to hammer out a plan to deal with a serious mold problem at West Vigo High School.
“It needs to be addressed immediately,” said Joni Wise, Vigo County Health Department administrator. “We are concerned.”
The mold is aspergillus/penicillium, and last week, air sampling was done in 15 rooms where mold had been visible.
“They are dealing with a moisture problem, and they need to reduce the relative humidity in the school to help limit the growth of mold,” said Travella Myers, health department environmental health specialist.
Test results indicate the outdoor mold count was 40, which is acceptable, according to the health department. But some of the classrooms tested at 5,000 to 7,000, with the highest about 31,000. Two rooms with high mold counts are not being used, Myers said.
There are no federal guidelines for mold levels, but, “31,000 is pretty high when your level outside is 40,” Myers said. The cause of the mold is unknown.
Those with allergies, asthma and others whose immune systems are compromised are most at risk for health issues that can include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, difficulty breathing and headaches, Myers said.
New $300 million Portola High School opens in Irvine to 400 freshmen
Tomoya Shimura, The Orange County Register
August 24, 2016
-- IRVINE – Welcomed by the giant drawing of a bulldog mascot that faces a parking lot and the smell of pristine classrooms, students, teachers and staff kicked off the historic first day of Portola High School.
There wasn’t much celebration Wednesday morning, except for some parents taking photos of their children at entrances to the new campus. Still, there wasn’t a lack of excitement among the 400 students, all of whom are freshmen.
“I’m just so thrilled that we started this brand new school,” said Laurel Feldner, 14, who came from Jeffrey Trail Middle School. “All of the teachers seemed so excited to be here. I know that I’m super excited to be here, and they just all seemed very ready to teach us.”
The opening of Portola High, the Irvine Unified School District’s fifth comprehensive high school, is a reflection of what’s happening in Irvine, one of the fastest-growing cities in California.
Adjacent to the northeast side of the Orange County Great Park, the school serves students from the developing Great Park Neighborhoods and other parts of north Irvine.
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