Kennewick ponders what to build with state school construction grant
TY BEAVER, Tri-City Herald
May 22, 2016
-- The crowding that has strained Washington Elementary School in recent years eased a bit this school year, partially because of luck.
First- and third-grade classrooms are down to around 20 students each, said Principal Rob Phillips.
That’s the result of fewer-than-anticipated students in those grade levels — but also bringing in additional teachers and creating more ideal student-to-teacher ratios that educators say are better for young learners.
The east Kennewick school still relies on eight portable classrooms to accommodate all of its roughly 550 students. And class sizes in some of the lowest grades are still high, such as the 29 students second-grade teacher Alisa Olsen has in her classroom.
“It’s challenging because you can’t meet all their needs,” Olsen said.
The Kennewick School District recently won a $51 million state grant aimed at reducing class sizes, and Washington is one of the schools that may benefit, with 12 new classrooms.
School board members have only had preliminary discussions about what to do with the money, but they’ve expressed a preference to build some classroom additions and new schools to get class sizes down.
Columbus school district sets $1.3 billion building plan
Bill Bush, The Columbus Dispatch
May 21, 2016
-- Columbus City Schools will unveil a proposal for a $1.3 billion facilities master plan today that would shutter five elementary schools, rebuild dozens of buildings and keep all existing high schools open.
But the plan calls for rebuilding far more space than the state predicts that the district will need: High schools will be 85 percent full and middle schools 83 percent full. The district also wants preschool rooms in all new buildings, which the state won't help pay for. The pre-K rooms and under-capacity buildings mean the district would have to pay for $316 million in improvements that the state wouldn't help with. If the state kicked in its usual 30 percent on those costs, it would cover about $95 million.
Storm punched fist-sized holes in roof of new middle school
MARGARET REIST, Lincoln Journal Star
May 20, 2016
-- Hail punched fist-sized holes in about 80,000 square feet of new roofing on the still-under-construction Moore Middle School, the hardest-hit of Lincoln Public Schools' 70-some buildings in last week’s storm.
The hail punched through the roofing and insulation and the rain followed it. Rain also poured through the yet-to-be installed windows, damaging drywall inside the school being built near 84th Street and Yankee Hill Road.
The 80,000 square feet of roofing represents about a third of the total roof space, and it will need to be replaced, LPS Facilities and Maintenance Director Scott Wieskamp told Lincoln Board of Education members at a planning committee meeting Tuesday.
Construction workers temporarily patched the holes with tar to prevent further leaking, he said.
Moore -- in the direct path of the worst of the storm -- appears to be the hardest-hit of the LPS buildings, although insurance adjusters will be in town next week and will tour all LPS buildings to assess damage.
Yonkers defends decision to withhold school lead tests
Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, LOHUD
May 20, 2016
-- YONKERS - Eighty water fountains and faucets at city schools have been shut off due to unsafe lead levels, including a high of 2,230 parts per billion — more than 100 times the federal threshold for safe drinking water, officials said Friday.
But Schools Superintendent Edwin Quezada continued to defend the district's decision not to release information, including which schools, to parents, saying that testing is not complete and it would be "irresponsible" to release the results before the process is finished.
"I think it's a question of incomplete information, and none of us are comfortable releasing information that's incomplete," Quezada said during an afternoon briefing. "The information will be released. We're working on that. We will take care of that. But to provide incomplete information would be irresponsible on our part and we are not comfortable with doing that. However, we are almost finished."
The 80 water fixtures that tested above 20 parts per billions were disconnected, and will be repaired or replaced. That's the threshold set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
With second lawsuit filed, Fayette commissioner believes parents tired of waiting for SBA solution
Alex Wiederspiel , MetroNews
May 20, 2016
-- FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Fayette County Commission President Matthew Wender, the Fayette County Commission, and two parents in Fayette County are hoping a lawsuit against the State Board of Education and the School Building Authority will spur action in finding a remedy for the crumbling school facilities in the county.
“Our citizens are just simply not willing to step back and hope for a good outcome with the SBA,” Wender said.
The lawsuit, the second one filed by Mountain State Justice on behalf of Fayette Count, will seek to convince a judge that the SBA should fund the previously rejected 2015 Comprehensive Facilities Plan.
Shortly after the new year began, the School Building Authority and Fayette County Superintendent of Schools Terry George began working together to find a solution to the myriad problems facing schools in the region.
Wender said he is hopeful that the outcome of that partnership will bear fruit, but said many in the county aren’t willing to put all of their eggs in one basket.
“How aggressively it will be pursued, I guess, will depend in large part about how confident the folks of Fayette County are about the progress we are making with the SBA,” he said.
West Memphis to build its first new school in 30 years
Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal
May 20, 2016
-- The West Memphis School District is demolishing its oldest school building to make way for a new, state-of-the-art elementary school that can accommodate more students and keep up with the times.
A $14 million, 72,000-square-foot facility will replace the district's oldest school — Bragg Elementary, originally constructed in the mid-1950s.
Ladd Garey, a project architect with Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects (ETFC) who attended Bragg as a child, said after trying to bring the existing school up to new classroom-size standards and trying to incorporate technology infrastructure, the district decided it was time for new construction.
"It’s an exciting time for West Memphis," Garey said. "They’ve been making it and doing a great job with what they’ve had, but they will now be able to take advantage of new technology and what’s available to enhance the current learning environment."
St. Louis region to get new tornado "safe rooms" this year
Jennifer Meckles, KSDK
May 20, 2016
-- They promise a better defense against deadly tornados, and this year the St. Louis region is getting three of them.
Construction is underway on several “tornado safe room” projects in eastern Missouri.
Safe rooms are part of FEMA’s hazard mitigation program, where the federal government provides funding to provide protection from severe storms for local communities. The state of Missouri administers the grant to organizations -- like community organizations and school districts -- that apply and meet the specific requirements.
According to a state list, more than 100 safe rooms have already been built in Missouri.
At Troy Buchanan High School, construction is underway on a new auditorium.
“It’s going to be a classroom space -- so a learning opportunity for our students,” explained principal Dr. Jerry Raines. The building will offer instructional space and serve as a performing arts center. It will also serve another purpose for Lincoln County.
“In the event of inclement weather or where we’d have a tornado, we could evacuate all of our students -- which is approximately 1500 -- into that facility in less than five minutes,” Raines said. “The construction of the walls, the thickness of the walls, will withstand a tornado of the caliber that went through Joplin, Missouri.”
If a severe weather event occurs after school hours, Raines explained, the community could also make use of the protective space.
This grant first became available for Missourians more than a decade ago. However, events like the deadly EF5 tornado that ripped through Joplin in 2011, and a tornado that struck St. Louis that same spring prompted greater interest in the grant.
Ken-Ton school district saying goodbye to 3 schools
Desiree Wiley, WKBW
May 20, 2016
-- KENMORE, N.Y. (WKBW) - Three schools in the Ken-Ton School district will close their doors at the end of the school year part of a two year consolidation plan approved by the Board of Education.
The district has seen a huge decline in student enrollment and has suffered from cuts in state aid through the years.
In 1965 the district enrolled 22, 350 students but this year only 6,923 enrolled.
The three schools closing at the end of the year include Kenmore Middle School, Roosevelt Elementary and Hamilton Elementary.
Teachers and staff of the middle school said the closures are bitter-sweet.
"It's been wonderful. I feel like I grew up as an adult here," said Jane Stevens a 7th and 8th grade English teacher who's spent 17 years at the middle school. "It's been my whole career so far and it's been amazing. We're excited to celebrate this milestone but it's hard to leave friends and colleagues."
School worker in boiler explosion dies of his injuries
Robert Moran, philly.com
May 19, 2016
-- A maintenance worker who was critically injured when a boiler exploded at a Philadelphia public school in January died Wednesday, union officials said.
Christopher Trakimas, 62, a facility mechanic, was bringing online a boiler that had been shut down for a year at Franklin S. Edmonds Elementary School when it blew up Jan. 13.
"Chris has been in the hospital for five months fighting to overcome the injuries he sustained," an official of his union, Ernie Bennett, posted on Facebook.
"He remained in a doctor-induced coma with third-degree burns on his lower body. While his burns were healing, his body could not sustain," said Bennett, assistant area leader for SEIU 32BJ, which represents Philadelphia School District blue-collar workers.
School facilities master plan draws criticism from planning commission
Heather Norris, Carroll County Times
May 18, 2016
-- Members of the county's Planning and Zoning Commission voiced concerns over the school system's Educational Facilities Master Plan on Tuesday, scolding school officials for insisting enrollment numbers will climb in future years.
In the proposed Carroll County Public Schools master plan for facilities, school enrollment is predicted to drop steadily for the next five years before turning around in year six at the elementary school level and climbing from there.
Planning commission member Alec Yeo noted that predictions that look farther than five years out are not based on solid numbers, since those children could not have been born yet. He asked William Caine, CCPS facilities planner, to designate in the master plan that reports that make predictions farther than five years out are more or less speculation and should be viewed differently than predictions for nearer years.
In the proposed Educational Facilities Master Plan, no indicator delineates the years in which the projection is based on current population numbers and where it switches to staff-drawn predictions.
"Your guess has consistently been that it will go up from there," Yeo said of enrollment projections. Those projections, he said have been repeatedly proven wrong with the passing of each year.
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