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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.

-- Amara Pinnock, YEP

District of Columbia: June 30, 2015 -- I teach at a school in Ward 8, and every day I drive past dilapidated school buildings in the area. When I attend professional development seminars in school buildings in other parts of the city, they look nothing like the building I teach in. Those schools have amenities that, unfortunately, my school building in Ward 8 doesn’t claim: walls to separate each classroom, new doors in all of the doorways, ample technology for each classroom, and no sign of rodents. It is a travesty that in our nation’s capital, so many of our schools are falling apart, particularly in neighborhoods serving the neediest student populations.

No summer break for school maintenance crews
-- Hannah DelaCourt, StarNewsOnline.com

North Carolina: June 29, 2015 -- SOUTHEASTERN N.C. -- The halls have emptied and the classrooms remain mainly dormant for schools in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties as students and teachers settle into their first few weeks of summer vacation. But for school maintenance staff, work is just getting into full swing. At Wrightsboro Elementary, crews started ripping up tile flooring and replacing it June 16 -- the day after teachers left, said Chris Peterson, director of maintenance in New Hanover County Schools. While summer can last about 3 months for students, Peterson said there is really only about 8 weeks from the time teachers are gone to complete major projects that might either be too loud or disruptive to students while school is in session. This summer Peterson said the list of repairs is long like usual. But for bigger projects, such as the one at Wrightsboro Elementary, the school district contracts work out. He said by contracting big projects out, his staff is able to be more productive and complete projects in a timely manner.

Plan for more solar arrays underway at Santa Fe schools
-- Chris Quintana, Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexico: June 28, 2015 -- The Santa Fe school district plans to leverage a combination of state and federal money to install nearly $4 million worth of solar arrays, the district’s largest solar-energy project to date. The district already has solar arrays at eight schools. These provide about 5 percent of the energy used by the school system and cut energy bills by $115,000 annually, district officials said. But the newest project will be much bigger. The plan calls for arrays at four schools, which could cut $750,000 from the district’s annual power cost. ‘This just hasn’t been done before,” said Lisa Randall, the district’s energy and water conservation coordinator. The Santa Fe school board approved the locations for the solar collectors last week. The plan calls to install carports topped with solar panels at Ortiz Middle School, César Chávez Community School and Ramirez Thomas Elementary. But the Santa Fe High School project is far larger. The largest arrays will cover parking areas adjacent to the school’s stadium. Others will be scattered throughout the campus.

Camp Pendleton schools may lose construction funding
-- Pat Maio, The San Diego Union-Tribune

California: June 27, 2015 -- CAMP PENDLETON — Fallbrook Union Elementary School District may lose $72 million from the Department of Defense to rebuild two blighted schools at Camp Pendleton because it can’t raise an $18 million matching grant from the state before a 2016 deadline, district officials said. Since the Pentagon issued a study four years ago that noted two public elementary schools on the base needed a complete overhaul, funding possibilities for the work have slowly evaporated. That’s despite nearly $945 million that has been spent on an ongoing program to rebuild or remodel 170-plus schools on U.S. military bases throughout the country. Last year — when it looked like the Fallbrook district might get a slice of that federal money — school board trustees approved a $4 million contract with an architectural firm to begin design work on new K-8 campuses for the overcrowded and aging May Fay Pendleton School and San Onofre School campuses. The Department of Defense’s Office Economic Adjustment pledge up to $72 million for the $90 million work, on the condition that Fallbrook officials come up with the remaining $18 million. That’s where the district has run into trouble.

Despite freeze, Rauner releases a school construction grant
-- Kurt Erickson, Pantagraph.com

Illinois: June 25, 2015 -- SPRINGFIELD — At the same time Gov. Bruce Rauner is threatening to shut down hundreds of construction projects because of an impasse over the state budget, his office has released $3.6 million to help build a new school in Macon County. The money for the Meridian school district comes after Rauner in January froze hundreds of grants as part of a review of the state's financial problems. And it comes just days before work is slated to stop on hundreds more construction projects in every corner of the state as part of a newer edict by the Republican chief executive. Dan Brue, superintendent of the 1,000-student district, said he's grateful for the infusion of state cash at a time when the district is pushing to finish a $45 million overhaul of the district's facilities. "I feel like we're fortunate," Brue said Wednesday. "We're knee deep in our project right now." Along with building a new high school in Macon, the project includes transforming the old high school into a middle school and the construction of a new grade school in Blue Mound.

General Assembly adopts flexible school construction plan
-- Staff Writer, The Valley Breeze

Rhode Island: June 25, 2015 -- PROVIDENCE - An end to the four-year moratorium on state aid for school construction projects was approved by the Senate Tuesday with the adoption of state Sen. Ryan Pearson's school construction bill. Similar language had passed the House of Representatives with the budget package a week earlier. Pearson called the new plan "a welcome relief" in a state where school investment has been stalled since 2011. "This appropriation is a step in the right direction, and we hope it indicates a willingness to make investments in improving the state of school buildings in Rhode Island," Pearson said. Pearson had led a 2014 Senate task force on school construction aid. He says that prior to the 2011 moratorium, the Rhode Island Department of Education was approving construction projects without a clear fiscal cap. "It became completely uncontrollable," says Pearson, forcing the General Assembly to shut down the program entirely, except for repairs related to health and safety.

New SL school construction plan accommodates old tree
-- KRYSTLE WAGNER, Grand Haven Tribune

Michigan: June 24, 2015 -- On Tuesday night, the district’s school board approved plans to alter the pick-up/drop-off lane in front of Spring Lake middle and intermediate schools. It calls for more space around the 150-year-old tree than what's currently there, but it still requires construction to take place around it. Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said they looked at how they can do construction around the tree without damaging it. The new plans call for the two-lane asphalt drive to shift closer toward the building. As a result, one set of stairs into the building will be removed, a retaining wall will be added and the new canopy will be thinner. Furton said they looked at alternatives such as moving the entrance to another part of the school, including the parking lot facing Grabinski Field. With those suggestions came challenges such as supervision, visibility for traffic and additional costs, he said. "We tried to find the best compromise we could," Furton said.

Less mineral revenue means less Wyoming education funding
-- Ben Neary - Associated Press, The News&Observer

Wyoming: June 24, 2015 -- CHEYENNE, WYO. Wyoming lawmakers likely will face tough choices in coming years over how to fund the state's K-12 educational system because of falling mineral revenue, legislative staffers warned Wednesday. Don Richards, budget and fiscal manager for the state's Legislative Service Office, said the school system faces a shortfall of nearly $580 million from mid-2016 through mid-2020, even after spending some reserve funds. The shortfalls are based on current projections that the state's share of the total budget for K-12 education for those years will run about $900 million annually. "You can see sizeable shortfalls for K-12 education in the next bienniums," Richards told lawmakers at a briefing Wednesday in Cheyenne, referring to the state's two-year funding cycle. The projections assume there will be no change in how the state chooses to fund its school system and that student enrollment continues to increase at 1 percent a year. Wyoming is the nation's leading coal producer and relies heavily on federal mineral revenue to fund education. State forecasters have projected federal mineral revenue will likely fall from just over $1 billion last year to about $688 million in 2020. In the coming 2017-2018 biennium, the state's account for school construction will receive an estimated $137 million in revenue, while spending is projected at more than $510 million, Richards told the committee. That would leave about $373 million in unfunded construction costs. In the 2019-2020 biennium, school construction costs are projected to be about $200 million while revenue would only reach $26 million, leaving a $174 million shortfall, Richards said. The state's options include spending less, particularly by possibly cutting school construction, Richards said. However, he noted that Wyoming courts have imposed mandates requiring support of K-12 education. "So there may be some limitation on any reduction in K-12," he said. There's also the possibility that the state could see a rebound in energy revenue or that the state could fund education from other accounts, including the general fund.

Granderson named school facilities chief
-- Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansasonline.com

Arkansas: June 23, 2015 -- Terry Granderson, assistant director of the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, is now its director. The three-member Commission for Arkansas Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation appointed Granderson on Monday to replace Charles Stein, who retired June 19 from the division that works to ensure adequate and safe buildings and transportation for public school students. Granderson's appointment was effective immediately. "Mr. Granderson has worked for the division since it began in 2005," Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key said in announcing the selection. "He has extensive knowledge of the division's services and served on the legislative task force that established the division. He is an excellent choice for this role."

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