Bill would require school districts to insure buildings
Seth Klamann, Casper Star Tribune
January 19, 2017
-- A Wyoming House bill that would require schools to buy insurance for their buildings advanced Wednesday, two days after education lawmakers briefly discussed and approved it.
House Bill 27 is sponsored by the Select Committee on School Facilities. It would mandate that the board of trustees for school districts across Wyoming buy “a policy or policies for property insurance covering all education, administrative and transportation facilities owned or maintained by the school district.”
The measure was approved unanimously Monday by the House’s education committee.
“Oftentimes, school districts, if there is damage to their buildings ... rather than fight with the insurance companies or wait for processing of claims, they just go right to the state and ask for funds to repair the damage,” said Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, during the committee meeting. This bill, he said, would mean districts would have to go through their insurers, rather than turn to the state for funds.
Rep. David Northrup, a Powell Republican, said a number of districts have already used some of the money they receive from the state to pay for insurance. How many districts have insurance, and through what means, wasn’t clear, though. Northrup added that he knew of at least one district that told the school facilities committee that it did not have any insurance.
New city codes for storm shelters won’t affect school district’s 2017 bond issue
Joanna Hlavacek, LJWorld.com
January 18, 2017
-- New building and construction codes regarding storm shelter safety requirements will have no effect on the Lawrence school district’s upcoming bond issue.
The code amendments, approved Tuesday by the Lawrence City Commission, require storm shelters for any new K-12 educational facilities as well as any existing schools where an addition would increase current square footage by more than 25 percent. This rules out any ongoing projects, including the final renovations being carried out now as part of the district’s 2013 bond issue for elementary schools, as well as the proposed $87 million bond issue slated for a May election that would renovate Lawrence’s secondary schools.
“We’re going to meet the code as it stands, but the code is not requiring us to build any ICC-500 shelters,” said Tony Barron, the district’s director of facilities and operations.
District leaders voiced concern over the new requirements first proposed in early 2016, which incorporated the 2015 editions of the International Code Council (ICC) model construction codes, among other standards. At issue then was the requirement that storm shelters be designed and constructed to withstand winds of up to 250 mph, a mandate in line with standards developed by the ICC in consultation with the National Storm Shelter Association and FEMA.
Although renovations at all 20 Lawrence schools as part of the 2013 bond issue included "hardened space” shelters with steel reinforcements and concrete ceilings, those spaces do not meet international or national FEMA-approved codes for storm shelters, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle told the Journal-World last February.
Superintendent: Little Rock School District plans to close or repurpose 4 schools
Brandon Riddle, Arkansas Online
January 17, 2017
-- Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore on Tuesday afternoon announced plans to close or repurpose four schools within the district as part of cost-cutting efforts.
Schools set to close are Franklin and Wilson elementary schools as well as Woodruff Early Childhood Education Center, Poore said. The shuttering of those facilities would displace more than 730 students, based on the latest enrollment figures. Hamilton Learning Academy will be repurposed.
Carver Magnet Elementary School, which was previously among schools being considered for closure, will remain open.
The move comes as the district looks to make more than $10 million in budget cuts after the loss of $37 million in desegregation funds, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported.
"We know that we have to address things," Poore said. "We can't just kick the can down the road. We can't just say, well, let's wait another year."
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality testing water at more than 1,000 schools for lead levels
Max Walker, abc15
January 17, 2017
-- PHOENIX - Officials have begun testing more than 1,000 schools across the state for possible high levels of lead in the water supply.
According to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the testing is a proactive measure designed to see if lead levels in the water are at levels that may pose harm to children's health.
The testing is expected to take six months to complete and includes taking a total of 14,000 samples from more than 7,000 buildings across 205 districts.
Lead contamination can happen even when a school's water supplier is in full compliance with regulations designed to keep lead out. Officials said lead might leach into the water from pipes, faucets and water heaters inside the schools themselves.
Water Quality Division Director Trevor Baggiore said problems arising around the nation — for example, the Flint, Michigan water crisis — is pushing them to take action before water problems come to light in our state.
Okaloosa's schools are some of the oldest in Florida
Kelly Humphrey, nwfdailynews.com
January 16, 2017
-- If you have a child in the Okaloosa County School District, chances are good the school he or she attends is older than you are.
In fact, it's not uncommon - especially at the county's oldest schools - for three, and sometimes even four generations of a family to attend the same school. While that may breed nostalgia and a great deal of school loyalty over the years, it illustrates an important fact.
Most of Okaloosa County's schools are old, and their age is beginning to show.
The oldest in the state
School Board member Melissa Thrush is a product of Okaloosa County Schools. An alumna of both Meigs Middle School and Choctawhatchee High School, she spends a great deal of time visiting the district's nearly 40 school buildings. What she's seen during those visits sometimes surprises her.
"I was at Meigs for an athletic event not too long ago, and I was shocked to see that the girls locker room locked exactly like it did when I was a student there more than 30 years ago," she said. "I'm finding that's true at many of the schools across our district."
Thrush did some research and discovered that Okaloosa's school buildings are among the oldest in the state.
Building Boom: Towns, school districts spending millions on new or improved facilities
Jake Flannick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
January 13, 2017
-- Around the suburbs, numerous municipalities and school districts are planning, building or have recently completed large-scale construction and renovation projects, issuing bonds or tapping reserve funds to address pressing needs.
In general, the activity is being driven largely by aging infrastructure, not growth, said Orlie Prince, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service. Its credit rating agency rates the financial condition of a number of municipalities and school districts throughout Allegheny County.
Over the past couple of years, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported on a flurry of capital projects big and small that have been completed or are underway, being planned or under consideration.
Some municipalities and school districts are paying for the projects out of their own pockets, tapping cash reserves.
Others are borrowing money amid lower interest rates, which have proved “favorable” for issuing bonds or refinancing debt, said Charlie Goodwin, managing director and head of public finance for the Bank of New York Mellon. The global corporation serves as the county’s financial adviser.
In Brentwood, officials are considering replacing the nearly century-old borough building with a two-story structure that would contain about 14,000 square feet. It would cost about $5 million, which would come from a general obligation bond, borough manager George Zboyovsky said.
While the existing borough building is much larger, containing more than 35,000 square feet, it once housed a library as well as a number of other services but now is home only to the police department and the borough’s emergency medical services and administrative offices.
More pressing, however, is the condition of the building.
Parents appeal to black, Latino caucus over Boston school closings
Kathleen McKiernan, Boston Herald
January 13, 2017
-- Several Mattapan neighborhood and parents groups are calling on the black and Latino state legislators to defend and protect Boston’s majority minority communities from exorbitant school closings, charging that the state’s school accountability system is broken and discriminatory.
The Haitian Parents Association and Mattapan United, in a joint letter sent yesterday to the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, argue that Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury communities have suffered disproportionately from past school closures, including the recent closures of the E. Greenwood Leadership Academy and the William Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park.
They argue that the Mattapan community has been disrespected by the district's decision to close Mattahunt Elementary and turn it into an early learning center.
School leaders decry any delay in spending state bond money
HAROLD PIERCE, Bakersfield.com
January 13, 2017
-- The governor's call this week to delay spending of Proposition 51 state school bond funding until rules for spending it are more equitable to small districts is irking local school leaders in growing districts that desperately need the money.
Gov. Jerry Brown has been critical of Proposition 51, the $9 billion school construction bond voters approved in November, calling it “the developers bond” and something legislators should have drafted instead of special interests.
He’s now proposing halting the sale of those bonds in his proposed budget until the Legislature rolls out better auditing systems and ensures the program doesn’t perpetuate a “first-come, first-served” approach that benefits resource-rich districts.
The reform process could take as long as 18 months.
“We continue to have a commitment to the taxpayers to make sure that every dollar that goes out through that program is accounted for appropriately,” said Michael Cohen, director of the state Department of Finance, during a Tuesday news conference.
Brown's reform proposal comes just four months after a Department of Finance audit revealed a lack of financial oversight in bond spending and that almost $200 million had been used statewide for ineligible purchases including trucks, golf carts, iPads and cleaning supplies rather than construction.
Behind sale of closed schools, a legacy of segregation
Kalyn Belsha , The Chicago Reporter
January 13, 2017
-- Key Elementary School, a sandy-colored brick building on a tree-lined street on Chicago’s West Side, sits empty now. Several windows near its entrance are boarded up, giving the school’s façade the look of a smile that is missing front teeth. The school is in a busy, historic section of the Austin neighborhood near a stately town hall inspired by the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
In 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed Key and 49 more public schools—the most at one time in any school district in the nation—in an attempt to save money by shuttering schools with low enrollment. About 11,000 students, or 3 percent of the district, were forced to change schools.
Emanuel said residents would have a say in turning the former schools into facilities that would benefit the surrounding neighborhoods. Yet four years later, two-thirds of the buildings are still vacant. There are no common standards for community involvement in determining their reuse. And aldermen, who until recently oversaw the process, have not held public meetings to discuss the future of about half of the schools, including Key.
In response to a widely criticized and failing reuse plan, Chicago Public Schools put 28 vacant schools that were shuttered in 2013 on the market this week, taking decision-making about their future out of aldermen’s hands. The announcement came months after The Chicago Reporter began questioning CPS officials about the status of the repurposing.
District spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement that the decision to expedite the sales was made to “accelerate the reuse and revitalization of former school sites and help spur new value from properties throughout the city.” School officials hope a mass sale will increase the number of offers, as the approach has in other cities.
Detroit teachers, school district settle suit over building problems
Ann Zaniewski , Detroit Free Press
January 12, 2017
-- A settlement has been reached between the Detroit's teachers union and the city's school system in a lawsuit over mold, vermin and other problems found in some run-down school buildings.
The agreement calls for a five-member oversight committee to ensure that all building repair requests are handled promptly.
The deal also includes enforcement to compel the district to act on work orders logged by parents and educators, officials said. It requires the district to generate a monthly maintenance report identifying every work order request and its status.
“This agreement brings Detroit closer to the great public schools the Detroit Federation of Teachers has been fighting for,” DFT Interim President Ivy Bailey said in a news release.
Go to Top