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Fascinating features of San Francisco’s old public schools
-- Jill Tucker, sfgate.com

California: October 18, 2014 -- San Francisco’s newest public school, Willie Brown Jr. Middle School, will have plenty of modern features. But back in the 19th and 20th centuries, the city built very different schools — structures with Italian tile, solariums, painted ceilings, chandeliers and even gargoyles. These are old-school schools with fascinating features. Five gargoyles sit atop the old Hilltop High School in the Mission, built in 1937. “Every school should have gargoyles,” said David Goldin, San Francisco Unified’s chief facilities officer. Here’s a sampling, clockwise from top left: Tiles surround the arched doors at Hilltop High ; a gargoyle looks out from the Hilltop roof; original blueprints for all the schools in the district are kept in an office in Nourse Auditorium, built in 1927 for the High School of Commerce; a water fountain in the I.M. Scott Building in the Dogpatch neighborhood. See more images online at www.sfchronicle.com.

New York State’s school bond act draws a muted reaction
-- Tom Precious , The Buffalo News

New York: October 18, 2014 -- ALBANY – What if someone came calling with a $2 billion gift and the intended recipient was ho-hum about taking it? That’s the reaction the Smart Schools bond act, which is on the Nov. 4 statewide ballot, is getting in many educational circles. Officials in many parts of the education community say they didn’t propose the money and didn’t ask for its passage in the State Legislature this year, but will likely be happy to take the cash if voters approve the big borrowing – so long as there are none of the usual Albany strings attached. The $2 billion bond act caught the education community by surprise when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed it last January in his State of the State address. It found its way into the larger state budget and now will appear on ballot boxes across the state in a couple of weeks for voters to consider. Proponents characterize the borrowing as a way to give schools a technology jolt, allowing classrooms that aren’t wired with broadband to get access to high-speed Internet services, giving students new desktops, laptops and other devices and helping teachers incorporate cutting-edge technologies. Proceeds of the bond also can be used to fund classroom construction or renovation to make way for new prekindergarten classes, a provision in the plan which critics say would mean New York City would eat up much of the funding; $783 million is destined for New York City. Bond proceeds can also be used to replace classroom trailers with new classrooms in a building. The Cuomo administration has already floated, and put into the 2014 budget contingent upon the ballot item passing, district-by-district allotments for the funds. The allotments were based, in large part, on the school aid formula – used in the 2013-14 school year – that drives state aid to districts. For Buffalo, it would mean up to $56 million could flow in the coming years for new computers, wireless Internet upgrades, pre-K classroom space, and high-tech school security measures. Other potential amounts locally include Kenmore-Tonawanda at $5 million, Lackawanna at $2.9 million, West Seneca at $4.2 million, Niagara Falls at $8.9 million. New York City schools would be eligible for $783 million.

Indian Schools Face Decayed Buildings, Poverty
-- KIMBERLY HEFLING AP Education Writer, abc News

National: October 18, 2014 -- Federally owned schools for Native Americans on reservations are marked by remoteness, extreme poverty and a lack of construction dollars. They also are among the nation's lowest performing. The Obama administration is pushing ahead with an improvement plan that gives tribes more control. But the effort is complicated by the disrepair of so many buildings, not to mention the federal legacy of forcing American Indian children from their homes to attend boarding schools. Consider Little Singer Community School, with 81 students on a remote desert outpost. The vision for the school came in the 1970s from a medicine man who wanted area children to attend school locally. Here's the reality today: a cluster of rundown classroom buildings containing asbestos, radon, mice and mold. Students often come from families struggling with domestic violence, alcoholism and a lack of running water at home, so nurturing is emphasized. The school provides showers, along with shampoo and washing machines. Teachers have no housing, so they commute together about 90 minutes each morning on barely passable dirt roads. The school is on the government's priority list for replacement. It's been there since at least 2004. Not even one-quarter of students were deemed proficient in reading and math on a 2012-2013 assessment. "We have little to work with, but we make do with what we have," says Verna Yazzie, a school board member. The 183 schools are spread across 23 states and fall under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Education.

Towns forced to consider renovation or demolition of old, outdated schools
-- BRIAN M. JOHNSON, New Britain Herald

Connecticut: October 18, 2014 -- With its consideration of what to do with the former Linden Street School, Plainville officials are tackling a thorny problem that many communities face or have faced: What to do with large, outdated school buildings that were expensive to build, are expensive to get rid of and are costlier still to renovate. For the past year, local leaders have mulled various options for the former elementary school that was built in 1928. Many want it demolished, while some have suggested that it be renovated for new uses. Both recommendations will go to voters in a referendum next month. Other communities are dealing with similar issues. In Bristol, the sprawling former Memorial Boulevard School, built in 1921, has been vacant since 2010. A year ago, a majority of council members agreed to sell it to a Rhode Island developer. However, the Planning Commission opposed the move and the council lacked a super majority needed to go ahead with the move. Since then, the community has debated using the school for housing or cultural events. Also vacant in Bristol are the Bingham and O’Connell schools, which were built in 1916 and 1914 respectively. Bingham has been empty since 2011, O’Connell hasn’t been used since 2012 and city planners are still reviewing options. One of the major problems with reusing such old schools, officials say, is their outdated energy and mechanical systems, which are expensive to use or update. They may also be filled with hazardous materials, such as asbestos. Most also were built before handicap accessibilities laws were enacted. Jeffrey Beckham, an official with the state’s Department of Administrative Services, said older buildings are only exempt from meeting those standards if the buildings are being used as they were originally built. Once renovated, they have to be made accessible to those with handicaps, which can also be expensive. “Generally speaking, an older building is a lot further out of code than a newer one, so there is a lot more work to be done,” Beckham said.

Reports of garbage, vermin in Chicago public schools
-- Christopher Davion , World Socialist Web Site

Illinois: October 18, 2014 -- Recently published reports and testimony by Chicago Public Schools faculty and parents document increasingly filthy conditions in city schools following the privatization of custodial services earlier this year by contract firm Aramark. The city, backed by the SEIU union that nominally represents the janitors, nonetheless plans to proceed with the layoff of 290 custodians at the end of the month. Since the privatization of custodial services by Aramark and Sodexo earlier in the year, parents and CPS principals have complained about deterioration in the conditions of school facilities. For teachers, cleaning and maintaining the schools has taken up time that should be spent on instruction. CPS principals report resorting to organizing parent and student volunteers to help clean and dispose of overflowing trash before the start of the 2014-15 school year. Veteran teachers say current conditions are the most unsanitary they have ever seen. They report having to purchase, out of their own paychecks, basic amenities for student use in school restrooms such as hand soap and toilet paper. Flies, gnats, and roaches are proliferating amid piles of unremoved garbage, they say. One parent testified at a CPS Board of Education meeting that a classroom rug on which a student vomited on a Friday afternoon had remained uncleaned the following Monday. Photographs of Chicago school facilities posted online by students and teachers, some uploaded to Twitter under the hashtag ‘#CPSfilth’, include images of unsanitary restrooms, piles of garbage, dead rodents, broken utilities, moldy cafeteria food, and other stark indications of uncleanliness and neglect. One high school teacher working on Chicago’s southwest side reported his classroom has a leaky ceiling that had gone unfixed for two years, and that roaches were recently spotted in a student locker room, causing students to avoid using the showers after physical education class.

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