Schools banking on $9 billion state bond this election
HAROLD PIERCE, Bakersfield.com
July 28, 2016
-- When Kern High School District trustees approved a $280 million bond measure for the November ballot, they included a project list totaling close to $390 million in projected expenses.
Like other districts throughout Kern County, they were banking on voters also passing a state school construction bond worth $9 billion, allowing them to dip into state money to make up the $120 million shortfall.
But what if that bond, opposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, doesn't pass?
“For us if that doesn't happen, then we're done,” said KHSD Associate Superintendent of Business Scott Cole.
The failure of the $9 billion California Public Education Facilities Bond Initiative would leave scores of districts in the same boat, axing some high-profile projects already touted to the public during bond campaigns.
KHSD’s project list includes just four new construction projects. The state bond’s failure could force trustees to eliminate a couple of planned career technical centers, a new high school in the southwest to help control overcrowding, or a special education facility.
Texas district suing city over police substation present on district property
KRGV.com Staff, Legal Clips
July 28, 2016
-- KRGV.com reports that Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District (RGCISD) has filed suit against Rio Grande City over the presence of a police substation on school district property. RGCISD asserts that the city should either pay rent or vacate the premises. The city counters that it should not have to do either.
Currently, the city pays only $1 a year. Mayor Joel Villarreal said the agreement was made between the city and the federal government 12 years ago. The U.S. Border Patrol transferred the lease it had with the school district to the city on the condition they use the property for law enforcement purposes.
Villareal says the 2004 document shows that city and the school district have a long standing agreement. He added, “So now coming to today, why should I agree to pay $3,000-$4,000 a month where I have this property for a dollar? It just makes no sense to me, no fiscal sense.”
Fremont to give school district 10-acre site to build elementary school
Aliyah Mohammed, The Mercury News
July 28, 2016
-- Fremont will give the school district an undeveloped 10-acre piece of Centerville Community Park to build an elementary school that should help relieve overcrowded classrooms.
City Manager Fred Diaz announced the deal at the City Council's July 19 meeting. The city-owned property at 3360 Eggers Drive is near Washington High School.
Diaz said the city expects Fremont Unified School District, which has been struggling to locate a campus site, to pay for construction of the new elementary school and a middle school from a state bond measure on the November ballot, if it passes. The bond would raise $9 billion for construction of elementary, middle and high schools as well as community colleges in California, Diaz said.
"This November there will be a state bond that would provide Fremont Unified with enough money to build two schools, one middle and one elementary," Diaz said. "They have a site selected for the middle school but have not been able to secure a location for the elementary school."
He said city and district staff have been working together over the past several months to find land for a new elementary school. They chose the Eggers Drive property because "it's just ripe for a park or school site," Diaz said.
Missoula school facilities projects underway
CHELSEA DAVIS, Missoulian
July 27, 2016
-- Invoices are arriving for Missoula County Public Schools' facilities projects, though district officials say the numbers don't paint a full picture of where each project stands or where it will end up.
MCPS is currently tackling 14 projects, with bid amounts totaling nearly $32 million. Of that bid total, only about $675,000 has been spent on hard construction to date, according to documents from MCPS.
Last fall, voters approved an $88 million elementary district bond, and a $70 million high school bond for the facilities projects.
"We're really only three weeks into real construction," executive director of business and operations Pat McHugh said last week. "To this point, it's been soft costs."
McHugh said the expenditures so far "are not very informative yet" since they don't show the full extent of each project, including possible change orders.
He expects to present a full report to the school board in September or October, "when we can start checking projects off the list."
Decades After Ban, Lead Paint Lingers
Teresa Wiltz, The Pew Charitable Trusts
July 27, 2016
-- In the wake of the Flint water crisis, states are rushing to test for high levels of lead in drinking water. But many are failing to come to grips with a more insidious problem: lingering lead paint in homes and schools.
Paint, rather than drinking water, remains the main source of lead poisoning of young children in the U.S. But even though there are myriad federal and state laws designed to eradicate lead paint, enforcement is lackluster, hampered by a lack of money and the misperception that the problem has been solved. Many state laws don’t conform to federal recommendations, and federal funding for lead abatement has been slashed from $176 million in 2003 to $110 million in 2014.
Though the federal government banned lead-based paint in 1977, it persists in an estimated 38 million homes, lingering on old window frames and trim, and in dust. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children in at least 4 million U.S. households are being exposed to “high levels” of lead, and an estimated 535,000 children between the ages of 1 and 5 have elevated lead levels in their blood. (The CDC does not consider any level of lead safe for children.)
Lead poisoning in children has been linked to lower IQs, hormonal issues and behavioral problems, costing U.S. taxpayers an estimated $55 billion annually. A 2009 study determined that every dollar spent on limiting lead exposure saved taxpayers between $17 and $221 by reducing spending on health care, special education and crime.
Philly community workers making school playgrounds green
Vibha Kannan, Philly.com
July 26, 2016
-- The playground at Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences in Chestnut Hill - with its spacious sandbox and chunky wood structures - is a place of imagination, as Eden Kainer describes it.
In a city of cracked asphalt schoolyards, Jenks' playground is a model of green architecture. But in the cash-starved Philadelphia School District, playground equipment and green fields are secondary to more urgent needs - such as replacing fire alarms, hiring nurses, buying books, and repairing decades-old buildings.
That is why six elementary schools in Northwest Philadelphia are taking on the job of greening schoolyards. The schools (Anna B. Day, Eleanor C. Emlen, Charles W. Henry, Henry H. Houston, Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, and Anna L. Lingelbach) are all part of Mount Airy Schools Coalition, a branch of the large nonprofit Mount Airy U.S.A.
Last fall, the schools worked with Philadelphia nonprofits and community members to draft new design plans for playgrounds. And this fall, they will continue collaborating in the hope of raising funds through grant applications to begin smaller-scale renovations such as installing gardens and picnic tables.
Gwinnett County Schools completes $342M of construction in four years
Keith Farner, Gwinnett Daily Post
July 26, 2016
-- Aiming to keep pace with the swelling enrollment across the county, construction projects in Gwinnett County Public Schools are moving at a fast-paced clip.
Chief Operations Officer Danny Jardine last week told the Gwinnett County Board of Education that he was very happy to report that by the start of the upcoming school year, the district will have completed 163 projects in four years that represent $342 million of construction work that fell below the $380 million budget.
“We’re finishing basically within a year early and within budget. There’s a lot of school districts that can’t say this,” Jardine said. “Again, we’re very fortunate to have a team that understands the process, and how to plan and how to manage that plan.”
In his annual oversight report, Jardine reviewed the 2012 building program, and previewed the 2017 version that is funded from Special purpose local option sales tax proceeds.
“In a nutshell, we feel like we’ve had another great year because we have an incredible team that supports the school district,” said Jardine, who was named to this role about three and a half years ago.
The school district has already spent nearly $84 million in planning, design and construction since Gwinnett voters approved SPLOST V in November.
Some Broward schools could get new cafeterias
Scott Travis, Sun Sentinel
July 26, 2016
-- Some Broward County high schools could get new or remodeled cafeterias as part of a voter-approved program to fix dilapidated schools.
School Board members were debating late Tuesday about whether to make additions to their $2.6 billion, five-year capital budget, which includes projects funded by an $800 million bond approved by county voters in November.
Cafeteria renovations aren't part of the current budget, but district officials plan to ask architects to review the conditions of cafeterias at about 31 schools at the same time they design plans to replace air conditioners and roofs and renovate the facilities.
School board members have been concerned that some cafeterias are too small to serve students, while others are in deteriorating shape. The options could range from installing canopies outdoors to replacing the entire cafeteria.
Yakima Valley school districts agree: It’s tough to get a bond passed
RAFAEL GUERRERO, The Seattle Times
July 25, 2016
-- The new Washington Elementary School in Sunnyside is a little more than six weeks away from ringing in the school year.
Contractors continue working, putting in finishing touches as the $18 million project is in its final two weeks.
Only a stone’s throw away, the former Washington Elementary approaches its end, as the building is set for demolition before the school year starts.
Among some longtime Sunnyside residents, the end of the old building is bittersweet and filled with memories, Superintendent Kevin McKay said. That nostalgia may be more felt by adults than children. For the 750 students projected for Washington in a few weeks, they get a new school.
Bay Area developers battle increased fees aimed at alleviating overcrowded schools
Joyce Tsai, East Bay Times
July 24, 2016
-- As the real estate markets for Fremont and Dublin soar with new home sales, the schools that house all those new students are bursting at the seams and looking to developers for help building classrooms.
The state agreed. In a precedent-setting act -- after repeated pleas by the Dublin and Fremont school districts -- a state board overseeing school construction declared in May that state funds for new school construction are not available, triggering the highest-level fees on homebuilders that the law allows. But those builders are fighting back, in a battle that could have implications for school funding around the state.
Last month, the California Building Industry Association slapped the State Allocation Board with a lawsuit the same day the panel voted. A Sacramento judge issued a tentative ruling this week favoring the districts and the state, but did not make a final decision during a court hearing Friday. The association declined to comment for this story.
The board's decision to raise fees that overcrowded school districts can charge housing developers for building new schools was seen as a long-awaited victory.
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