Yonkers rallies for $2B school rebuilding plan
Colleen Wilson, lohud
May 5, 2016
-- YONKERS – Mayor Mike Spano is flexing his rallying and collaborating muscles across the state this week to support his $2 billion schools reconstruction bond.
A bill was introduced Tuesday by Democratic state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins to support the bond, which comes about a week after the bill’s counterpart was introduced in the Assembly by Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer.
In an effort to continue pushing the bond’s campaign locally, Spano, also a Democrat, led a rally of about 100 students, parents, teachers and school officials in front of Martin Luther King Jr. Academy on Wednesday morning. The borrowing plan would, over 13 years, refurbish and rebuild the city’s 39 deteriorating schools and build two new schools on Ravine Avenue and off Ashburton Avenue.
Federal Schools for Native American Students Are Crumbling. Here’s How to Fix Them
Rep. Betty McCollum, Huffington post
May 4, 2016
-- Classrooms and hallways so cold children wear coats all day. Ceilings that leak year round. Buckled floors and broken doorways. A science classroom so poorly ventilated it can’t be used for chemistry experiments.
These are the conditions that the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s high school students experience every day at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School in northern Minnesota. That’s because their school is located in a dilapidated metal pole barn built to store vehicles.
I first visited Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig in 2009 and I was appalled by what I saw: one of the worst examples of what decades of neglect have done to schools for Native American children.
Under treaty and trust responsibilities dating back more than a century, the federal government has an obligation to provide an education for Native American children. It is very similar to the federal responsibility to educate children of Defense Department personnel at home and around the world.
More than 40,000 Native American students attend a school overseen by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), the federal agency tasked with providing a high-quality education in a safe and healthy setting.
Christie calls for lead hazard testing in water at all NJ public schools
DIANE D'AMICO, press of Atlantic City
May 2, 2016
-- Gov. Chris Christie on Monday announced new plans to mandate testing for lead in drinking water in all public and charter schools and provide $10 million to cover the cost.
Christie said the plan builds on existing regulations that already require schools to provide safe drinking water.
The new mandate will apply to approximately 3,000 school facilities beginning in the next school year, though the greatest danger is from lead pipes in old schools.
Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, issued a statement calling Christie’s actions “too little too late.” He also said the state should also lower the current acceptable lead level in water of 15 parts per billion to at least 5 parts per billion as it is in California.
The Atlantic City Municipal Utility Authority recently contracted for tests on two of the school district’s oldest schools, Brighton Avenue and Texas Avenue, and found very lead levels far below even the 5 parts per billion level.
Some Fresno schools will double as parks on weekends
TIM SHEEHAN, The Fresno Bee
April 29, 2016
-- Fresno hopes to augment its documented shortage of open city park space by working with school districts to open their campuses for recreation use on weekends starting this summer.
The Fresno City Council approved an agreement Thursday with the Central Unified School District for weekend use of playground areas at Steinbeck and McKinley elementary schools in the western part of the city.
An agreement between the city and the Fresno Unified School District for the use of 14 elementary, middle and high school sites is expected to be approved in May.
All but three of the school sites are south of Ashlan Avenue, and in areas that have been identified as underserved by city parks.
Manuel Mollenedo, the city’s director of parks, after-school, recreation and community services, told the council that the agreements will open up between 350 and 400 more acres of green space for residential recreation.
Mollenedo described the joint-use plan as “extremely exciting” and a “bold decision in trying to not only provide additional green space for the entire community of Fresno but also, in a very dramatic and cost-effective way, attempt to deal with the parkland shortage that this community faces.”
Late last year, the City Council earmarked $1.2 million to establish weekend recreation and fitness programs at the school sites. On Thursday, the council rejected both of the bids it received from outside organizations to run those programs, instead opting to have Mollenedo’s parks/recreation department handle the chores.
Texas schools spare no expense for huge football stadiums
David Warren, The Boston Globe
April 29, 2016
-- A suburban Dallas school district grabbed national attention in 2012 when it opened an eye-popping $60 million high school football stadium.
Not to be outdone, school officials near Houston next year plan to unveil a $62 million stadium plan. And a district north of Dallas is considering spending more than $50 million on its own football arena.
Are such exorbitant price tags for high school stadiums the new normal? Only in Texas, it seems. Football fields in other states are far less expensive, often in the range of $5 million to $10 million. One Southern California district built four stadiums for about $72 million.
Texas school officials say their districts are teeming with new students and that the stadiums reflect their communities’ need for larger, more modern facilities.
‘‘The size dictated the cost, no question,’’ said Tim Carroll, spokesman for the Allen school district, which built the $60 million stadium about 25 miles northeast of Dallas. ‘‘Some say we build things with no concern for expense, with columns made of marble, but that’s not the case.’’
Many of the facilities are designed to serve multiple schools and multiple sports and host special events. And they should last for generations.
Whitehall Schools want more state aid to ease overcrowding
Jim Siegel, The Columbus Dispatch
April 29, 2016
-- The student population problem at Whitehall Schools now has the Ohio School Facilities Commission questioning whether it needs to change a long-time rule and give the district more money.
The last of Whitehall’s new $78 million school buildings, of which 61 percent was paid for by the state, opened just two years ago. But the moment the doors opened, the facilities were over-capacity, even after the state approved an expansion of the original 2008 design.
In 2013, three new elementary schools built to house 1,275 students were already 250 students over capacity. And it’s only getting worse — district enrollment is currently 113.5 percent of capacity and is projected to reach 128 percent by the 2021-22 school year.
Experts say when a school's capacity exceeds 90 percent it's too crowded to allow flexibility for students and programs.
“We’re an exceptional case in many ways,” Superintendent Brian Hamler told the Facilities Commission on Thursday. He tried to persuade members to change a rule that would not make Whitehall eligible for more state funding until 2019.
That means new classroom space wouldn’t be open until about 2022.
“We cannot educate over 900 students in a middle school built for 652 … and we are more dependent than ever on the (state) to provide assistance,” he said.
Md. panel considers how to build a better school building
Tamela Baker, HeraldMailMedia.com
April 28, 2016
-- ANNAPOLIS — Aging schools, population shifts and changing educational needs — not to mention changes in the economy — present new challenges as state and local governments try to keep up with construction and renovation needs.
A new state panel looking into the methods and costs of school construction met for the first time Thursday in Annapolis, and got an overview of current funding and construction requirements.
The 21st Century School Facilities Commission, which includes state officials and private-sector professionals, will spend the next seven months reviewing building specifications, construction practices, enrollment, maintenance and financing to make recommendations for future projects in the state's 24 public-school systems.
Key to the discussions will be how curricula and technology will change the way schools educate students, said state Sen. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, and building facilities with the flexibility to handle it.
Oakland County school districts say funding is inadequate
Anne Runkle, Oakland Press
April 28, 2016
-- One of the boilers at Lake Orion High School doesn’t work. It would cost $20,000 to repair it and $30,000 to replace it.
Wes Goodman, facilities manager for the Lake Orion Community Schools, says the building has several other boilers that keep everyone comfortable.
But all the boilers were installed when the building opened in fall 1996. Others could go at any time, he said.
“I always tell my staff that we need to keep the dollars in the classroom,“ he said. But at the same time, he knows that students’ learning experience is affected by their environment — including staying warm in the winter.
The Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education voted 5-2 Wednesday to ask voters to approve a sinking fund of two mills for 10 years for building upgrades and repairs. A mill equals $1 in tax for every $1,000 of taxable value.
A number of bond issues or sinking fund millages will appear on the May and August ballots throughout Oakland County. Many districts that aren’t placing school building fund questions before voters in those two elections have put them on the ballot over the past year.
About a dozen of Oakland County’s 28 school districts already have a sinking fund. Michigan state law requires that school districts use that term.
D.C. offers small historic school, huge parking lot for lease and redevelopment
Michael Neibauer, Washington Business Journal
District of Columbia:
April 27, 2016
-- The District has a school it would like to lease you. And a much larger parking lot.
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development has released a solicitation for the long-term lease and redevelopment of the historic Alexander Crummell School site in Ivy City, a 108,000-square-foot parcel bounded by Okie, Kendall and Gallaudet streets NE.
The site, 1900 Gallaudet St. NE, is one block west of Douglas Development’s Hecht Warehouse District, a block south of New York Avenue NE, and just northeast of the D.C. Department of Public Works campus on West Virginia Avenue — a site slated for redevelopment as the DPW headquarters, plus retail and commercial space for the private sector.
The school building was designated a D.C. landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. While it requires exterior restoration, it should be retained. The parking lot, however, accounts for the vast majority of the site. It is currently leased to the Union Station Redevelopment Corp. for bus parking, but the USRC has never used it for that purpose (litigation put an end to that), and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is now negotiating to end the lease.
State to Crack Down on Wasteful School Construction Spending
Allison Nielsen, Sunshine State News
April 27, 2016
-- A newly-signed law aims to curtail wasteful public school construction spending in the Sunshine State, and it could have a big impact on schools statewide.
When House education budget chair Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, found out Florida schools were overspending on construction costs, he vowed to do something about it.
School districts have always had limits from the state on how much they could spend to build new infrastructure, but there were no caps on local spending for school construction projects. The current caps were established 10 years ago and were set to around $22,000 per student for elementary schools, $23,000 per student for a middle school, and around $30,000 for a high school.
Bolstered by a report which found Florida’s 67 school districts have spent more than $1.2 billion more than they should have over an eight-year period from 2006 to 2014, Fresen sponsored legislation to cut back on construction spending.
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