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This guide provides a framework for community involvement in the complex process of modernizing or building new public school buildings.

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Decades After Ban, Lead Paint Lingers
-- Teresa Wiltz, The Pew Charitable Trusts

National: July 27, 2016 -- In the wake of the Flint water crisis, states are rushing to test for high levels of lead in drinking water. But many are failing to come to grips with a more insidious problem: lingering lead paint in homes and schools. Paint, rather than drinking water, remains the main source of lead poisoning of young children in the U.S. But even though there are myriad federal and state laws designed to eradicate lead paint, enforcement is lackluster, hampered by a lack of money and the misperception that the problem has been solved. Many state laws don’t conform to federal recommendations, and federal funding for lead abatement has been slashed from $176 million in 2003 to $110 million in 2014. Though the federal government banned lead-based paint in 1977, it persists in an estimated 38 million homes, lingering on old window frames and trim, and in dust. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children in at least 4 million U.S. households are being exposed to “high levels” of lead, and an estimated 535,000 children between the ages of 1 and 5 have elevated lead levels in their blood. (The CDC does not consider any level of lead safe for children.) Lead poisoning in children has been linked to lower IQs, hormonal issues and behavioral problems, costing U.S. taxpayers an estimated $55 billion annually. A 2009 study determined that every dollar spent on limiting lead exposure saved taxpayers between $17 and $221 by reducing spending on health care, special education and crime.

Bay Area developers battle increased fees aimed at alleviating overcrowded schools
-- Joyce Tsai, East Bay Times

California: July 24, 2016 -- As the real estate markets for Fremont and Dublin soar with new home sales, the schools that house all those new students are bursting at the seams and looking to developers for help building classrooms. The state agreed. In a precedent-setting act -- after repeated pleas by the Dublin and Fremont school districts -- a state board overseeing school construction declared in May that state funds for new school construction are not available, triggering the highest-level fees on homebuilders that the law allows. But those builders are fighting back, in a battle that could have implications for school funding around the state. Last month, the California Building Industry Association slapped the State Allocation Board with a lawsuit the same day the panel voted. A Sacramento judge issued a tentative ruling this week favoring the districts and the state, but did not make a final decision during a court hearing Friday. The association declined to comment for this story. The board's decision to raise fees that overcrowded school districts can charge housing developers for building new schools was seen as a long-awaited victory.

Sales tax will help Palm Beach County schools
-- Robert Avossa, Sun Sentinel

Florida: July 22, 2016 -- Wednesday's board meeting provided the first glance of the Palm Beach County School District's proposed capital budget as well as a review of our many facilities requiring repair as a result of years of deferred maintenance from a decreasing capital budget. The long-term 11-year capital forecast presented to the School Board includes $1.34 billion that will be realized if the penny sales tax referendum passes in November. In 2008, the Florida Legislature began cutting the capital budgets school districts utilize for construction, repairs and major expenditures for things such as technology and school buses. In all, the capital budget for district schools has been cut a devastating $865 million since 2008. Now, it's estimated the district needs more than $1.4 billion to address much-needed building maintenance, important school security enhancements, classroom technology needs and an aging transportation fleet. Replacement of older school facilities and the anticipated demand for new schools brings the total need to more than $1.6 billion.

Five school districts sue Pierce County over building restrictions
-- DEBBIE CAFAZZO, The News Tribune

Washington: July 22, 2016 -- Five school districts have sued the county over land use decisions that the districts contend will limit their ability to serve students in burgeoning suburban areas of unincorporated Pierce County. The districts also charge that county rules are limiting certain special programs located in rural areas that attract students from cities and towns. The lawsuit was filed in Pierce County Superior Court Thursday by the Bethel, Eatonville, Franklin Pierce, Sumner and Tacoma school districts. The districts contend that a recent county ordinance would prohibit building new schools and forbid expansion of existing school facilities in county-designated rural areas — if those facilities also house students from urban areas. They say the ordinance interferes with the legal duties of school districts to build schools and determine instructional programs. Pierce County spokeswoman Libby Catalinich said county officials could not comment Friday. She said County Council members and County Executive Pat McCarthy were reviewing the legal issues with county attorneys.

UPDATE: Richwood High School and Middle School not reopening for class this fall
-- Staff Writer, WSAZ

West Virginia: July 21, 2016 -- he June 23 flood has forced Richwood High School and Middle School to begin the school year in portables. The Nicholas County Board of Education met Thursday night at a special public meeting to discuss contingency plans for the fast approaching school year. “We are in no way capable of making a statement or a determination as to what we will be doing with our schools,” said Nicholas Superintendent Donna Burge-Tetrick. “The final assessment has not been completed yet. There’s going to be studies. We don’t even have a flood plain manager.” Burge-Tetrick said the building of new schools remains a possibility, but the current buildings still could be salvaged. “We are bringing portables in, but that’s not because we’re closing, it’s because we’re waiting for final assessment,” she said. “We don’t know if we are going to meet or exceed that 50 percent value on the school. It would be premature for us to try to go in and bring contractors in.” The future of the schools is very much up in the air, said Burge-Tetrick.

More needs to be done to make schools safe, state superintendent says
-- Pat Maio |, EdSource

California: July 20, 2016 -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson told a group of school safety experts in Garden Grove that more needs to be done to keep violence from reaching school campuses in California. Speaking Wednesday at the annual Safe Schools conference, Torlakson said safety on school campuses remains a top priority, giving the state a grade of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the safest. “We are relatively safe,” Torlakson said. Torlakson’s remarks came during a summer when parts of the nation are convulsing over a wave of racially tinged shootings in such places as Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge. He said he would favor spending a portion of a $9 billion public education facilities bond initiative, Proposition 51 on the November ballot, on making security improvements to further safeguard the state’s 6 million students. “It’s our new reality in America,” said Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens. “No venue is entirely immune” from the rise in active shooters on school campuses and elsewhere. “I can’t say it won’t happen here anymore.”

Balancing the size of Watertown schools
-- Vekonda Luangaphy, Wicked Local Watertown

Massachusetts: July 20, 2016 -- With overcrowded classrooms, old infrastructure and a blossoming student population, Watertown officials are looking to revamp, renovate or replace most of the buildings in use in the Watertown Public Schools system to better serve the community. According to school committee estimates, each year, the town spends $500,000 to $600,000 in maintenance, repairs, and capital materials (like school furniture) on the school buildings. Steering Committee of Master Planning Design Process talks continued this week at the WPS Phillips Building with expansion and space management issues taking center stage. On Tuesday, July 19, Committee members reviewed preliminary designs of Watertown school buildings that were provided by representatives of the Symmes Maini & McKee Associates (SMMA) architecture firm. Discussions at the meeting about the possible changes made to the school buildings were based upon many factors such as increasing enrollment and space utilization, which led the steering committee to look into balancing the sizes of class sizes through redistricting. Prior to the meeting, committee members took a tour of the Watertown school buildings to familiarize themselves with the schools' facilities and assess its efficiency. At the meeting, committee members shared their feedback. Committee member and Watertown Director of Community Development & Planning Steven Magoon said the elementary schools needs gym-rooms and cafeteria expansions, the Middle School could use some building expansions, and the High School has underutilized spaces.

Summerlin school construction craze not because of student growth
-- Herb Jaffe, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada: July 20, 2016 -- One could easily assume that growth in Summerlin’s population has exploded after learning that three new schools, which will eventually accommodate more than 4,000 students, will be opened in the community within the next couple of years. Wrong assumption! After some reality checking, we also learned that what’s really going on is this: Both the state and the Clark County School District are playing catch-up, and these three schools, plus more than 30 others, are being planned for Southern Nevada in the short term to help relieve some of the worst school overcrowding in the country. No, Summerlin’s student population is not growing that rapidly. That’s not even close. Nor are homes in Summerlin being built and selling anywhere near that speedily. In fact, “the number of students entering the system this year in Summerlin is a tiny fraction of the number of seats the new schools will provide,” said Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations for The Howard Hughes Corp., the developer of Summerlin. But thanks to a school bonding bill that passed in the 2015 legislative session, with the weight of Gov. Brian Sandoval strongly behind it, construction of new schools has been unfrozen after almost a decade of inactivity.

Hart District Restructures Debt on $300M Bond Measure
-- Perry Smith, KHTS AM1220

California: July 20, 2016 -- “In November 2008, voters approved a $300 million school facilities general obligation bond for the construction of new school facilities and the improvement of existing facilities,” according to the district’s website. However, the construction of Castaic High School has hit a number of snags, most recently involving difficulties with the grading and permitting of the roads surrounding the site, as well as a costly lawsuit with the site’s neighbors. The lawsuit has since been settled. The William S. Hart Union High School District has restructured the financing of its Measure SA general obligation fund, saving Santa Clarita taxpayers $3.69 million. District officials likened their recent debt restructuring to the refinancing a home mortgage, with the move making the district able to lock in lower interest rates in order to lower its borrowing costs. Officials also noted that with a bond refunding, they can’t extend the repayment period of the debt. Property tax savings will benefit the community in 2017 through 2025 as a result of the refinancing. “The district is grateful for the support of local taxpayers and recognizes the importance of being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars,” said Erin Lillibridge, CFO for the Hart district. “Taking advantage of opportunities to reduce taxes for our community, while striving to provide the best education and school facilities possible for our students, is a priority for the Governing Board and administration of the district.” A portion of the outstanding bonds were eligible to be refunded, so the district strategically timed the issuance to take advantage of favorable interest rates and reduce existing tax rates within the community over the next nine years.

Hartford Moves Ahead With $100 Million Project for New Weaver High School

Connecticut: July 20, 2016 -- After years of being in limbo, a high school in North Hartford is finally on its way to getting a $100 million makeover. Three separate schools will be housed there, part of the city's efforts to deal with declining enrollment. For the last six years, Weaver High School has gone through nearly a half-dozen renovation plans. The latest one will be pulling students in from around the city to the north end, instead of focusing on those who live nearby. This has city school board member Robert Cotto, Jr. concerned. "I think people are feeling they're between a rock and a hard place," Cotto said. "I think there's a lot of misinformation as far as what's going on, and people were told this was the only plan you're going to get, and if you don't go along with this plan that we threw together, you're not going to get a new Weaver." Cotto was the only board member to vote against the plan, though he had previously approved "at least three or four" earlier ones. One earlier plan fell through because the school administration couldn't figure out which schools to relocate to Weaver.

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