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W.Va. authority OKs school construction projects
-- Associated Press, WCHS 8

West Virginia: December 16, 2014 -- Nine counties will receive state funding for school construction projects. The Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/1qVvlod) reports that the West Virginia School Building Authority approved about $5.6 million for major improvement projects on Monday. The authority also approved about $1.6 million for projects affecting more than one school district.

GOP lawmaker: fund schools with high-speed rail bonds
-- John Hrabe, CalWatchdot.com

California: December 15, 2014 -- A Republican lawmaker wants to turn money for California’s high-speed rail project into funding for schools. Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, introduced Assembly Bill 6, which would cancel outstanding bond funds approved by Proposition 1A, a 2008 voter-approved initiative to fund the state’s high-speed rail project with $9 billion in bonds. In its place, voters would be asked to spend the remaining funds on constructing and modernizing dilapidated school facilities throughout the state. “Don’t get me wrong, I love trains and would be happy to be able to take one from Los Angeles to San Francisco for ‘dinner and a show’ and back,” Wilk wrote in a recent piece at the Los Angeles Daily News, “but not at the expense of the people of California.” Before allocating up to $8 billion for school construction, AB6 first would first pay off the outstanding debts incurred for the state’s high-speed rail project. The bill requires two-thirds approval of the state Legislature and a majority approval of voters. “Our students deserve to have well-maintained facilities and it is irresponsible to continue prioritizing the crazy train over our schools,” Wilk said, echoing a favorite phrase coined by GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, who on Nov. 4 lost to Gov. Jerry Brown. “The high-speed rail boondoggle has been a proven failure and it’s time we spend taxpayer dollars in a responsible way.”

South Philadelphia High drives toward becoming a community school
-- Payne Schroeder, The Notebook

Pennsylvania: December 15, 2014 -- For Kamoy Gumbs, a senior at South Philadelphia High School, the school day doesn’t end after the final bell. Instead, he heads up to the third floor to do some homework in the school’s teen lounge before he trades his pencil for an apron. “I love cooking, and one of my friends told me about it, so I came over,” said Gumbs, 17, who takes part in a culinary arts program after school provided by Sunrise of Philadelphia, a social services organization. “I started in 10th grade -- it’s my third year. I go every day.” Southern, as the school is often called, has been working with local service providers like Sunrise for three years to provide afterschool programming and social services inside its building for students, parents, and, when it can, other community members. In addition to the culinary program, the school offers many other services, including class credit recovery, sexual health education, outpatient therapy, college preparation for children of migrant and refugee parents, and social benefit access. In August, City Council held a hearing on the possibility of creating “community schools” in the District. Then, in late October, the District’s chief of student services, Karyn Lynch, announced tentative plans to turn Southern and Strawberry Mansion into community schools. Although definitions vary somewhat, the idea of a community school is grounded in a notion of the neighborhood school as a vital educational and social service hub in the community. Classes are held like at any other school, but a community school threads social and academic supports into its educational model, forging partnerships with neighborhood services that cater to students and their families.

Vista Unified changing boundaries for elementary schools
-- Pat Maio, UT San Diego

California: December 15, 2014 -- An influx of hundreds of students from new housing developments in Vista and eastern Oceanside is expected to change elementary school boundaries in the Vista Unified School District — a boom not seen in decades, according to school officials. “This is a new challenge for us. There has never before been this kind of development going on in this community, at least since the ’90s,” said Donna Caperton, the Vista school district’s assistant superintendent of business services. The residential projects — in various stages of planning and construction — include about 2,200 housing units that would bring an estimated 1,551 new students to district schools, she said. One of the largest construction projects is south of state Route 78, where two district schools — Lake and Breeze Hill — are already at more than 90 percent capacity. Another is in northeast Vista near Foothill Oak Elementary, which is at 96.3 percent capacity — the most crowded elementary school in the district.

School Board discusses suing RSD to prevent it from opening new schools
-- Marta Jewson - The Lens, The New Orleans Advocate

Louisiana: December 15, 2014 -- The Orleans Parish School Board met in closed session Thursday to consider suing the Recovery School District to try to prevent it from reopening shuttered schools, particularly John McDonogh and Sarah T. Reed high schools. No vote was taken when the board returned to public session, and the issue will go before the board again Tuesday. The School Board is opposed in principle to the RSD opening new schools in the city — a position the board made known through a resolution passed in October. Board members contend that opening new schools is exclusively within their purview. They say the RSD was established to take over and improve failing schools, a process that board members concede includes choosing new operators for existing schools, but not starting new programs in completely closed schools. Last year, the RSD closed Reed and John McDonogh high schools. Now, it is soliciting applications for new operators for each. The OPSB requested control of John McDonogh from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this summer. BESE requested an attorney general’s opinion on whether it had the authority to return the school and helped begin a cooperative process between the two districts to get the high school running again. But before the state board received an answer, it gave the RSD complete control over the process.

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