NCEF News summarizes and provides links to news stories about educational facilities nationwide. Links to older articles may no longer be active.
Houston's Gloria Marshall Elementary School bags LEED GoldStaff writer, World Interior Design Network
January 31, 2012
TEXAS: The Gloria Marshall Elementary School in Spring ISD, Houston, Texas, has received LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council. The facility, designed by SHW Group, is the first public school in Houston to secure the certification. The two-level building opened in August 2011 and spans 105,000 square feet. The school employs various eco-friendly elements such as geothermal heating and cooling units. It is the first school in Houston to use the system and has reaped energy savings of 41% in the district compared to its average elementary school energy consumption.
The facility sports a rectangular form which is oriented with long north- and south-facing sides. The design of all its classrooms allows natural light penetration while the south-facing classrooms imbibe daylight harvesting. The building has also been equipped with sensor-controlled lighting fixtures based on daylight levels which switch off lights in the classrooms 75% of the time.
The school further features a science garden and eco-pond with an above-ground cistern and a river table. A geothermal well field with a system of tubes and valves has been installed below the parking space and playgrounds. The well field helps supply hot and cold water in and out of the facility. The facility also sports a butterfly garden along a walking trail.
The building comprises a highly reflective roof in white shade, as well as an on-site wind turbine. It is also fitted with 10 kilowatts of roof-mounted photovoltaic cells which directly transforms sunlight into electricity. There is an underground cistern for storing rainwater from the roof. The collected water is later recycled in the building's toilets.
Most of the materials used during the building process of the school are reclaimed. The facility has also utilised rapidly renewable resources. Reclaiming trees of the current site as desks, benches and conference room tables added to the sustainability factor.
Site not fit for a new Chicago school, neighbors sayJoel Hood, Chicago Tribune
January 29, 2012
ILLINOIS: Chicago Public Schools' plan to build an elementary school on polluted property in the shadow of the Chicago Skyway and an expiring coal-fired power plant near the Indiana border is raising the ire of parents in the working-class East Side neighborhood.
CPS already has paid more than $3 million for about 2 acres near 104th Street and South Indianapolis Avenue, a triangular parcel near a heavily congested traffic corridor, train tracks and towering industrial plants.
Preliminary testing at the site, which had been home to a gas station and more recently a carwash, uncovered eight underground gasoline storage tanks, one known to be leaking, and unsafe levels of the chemical benzene in the soil. But an official with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency cautioned that the true extent of the contamination won't be known until more testing is completed. No matter the level of pollution, records show CPS bought the property "as is," which means the district will cover all the cleanup costs before it breaks ground on school construction.
"It's a horrible site, and it would be terrible for students," said Jose Garza, chairman of the local school council at nearby Gallistel Elementary Language Academy.
Soil concerns aside, the neighborhood suffers from some of the poorest air quality in the state, thanks to a coal-fired power plant in nearby Hammond that is slated to close this year and thousands of trucks, cars and freight trains that roll through the area each day.
The new school would sit about a mile northeast of George Washington High School. In 2010, an air monitor atop that school recorded the state's highest levels of toxic chromium and sulfates, pollution that can trigger asthma attacks and heart problems. The BP Whiting refinery and the ArcelorMittal steel mill, two of the region's biggest sources of air pollution, are a couple of miles away.
In California, concerns over air quality prompted lawmakers in 2003 to prohibit districts from building schools within 500 feet of a freeway. Studies indicated the ultrafine particles kicked up by vehicles and noxious fumes were harmful to children's lungs and increased the risk of asthma and bronchitis. There is no such law in Illinois.
Oregon school energy audits find $40 million in upgradesAssociated Press, Argus Observer
January 29, 2012
OREGON: One of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s top priorities after taking office a year ago was his “Cool Schools” initiative to create jobs while making schools more energy efficient. Energy audit companies have taken a close look at 100 mostly small and rural school districts around Oregon to determine upgrades that are needed, how much energy can be saved, and what it might cost.
Those audits, which were obtained by The Associated Press, show a potential savings of $3.6 million a year if the full complement of $40 million worth of improvements is done. With grants and other incentives, the cost to schools would total $36 million, and the state is offering low-interest loans to pay for it.
The audits do not include estimates of how many jobs might be created. But governor’s aide Scott Nelson says labor studies indicate that $40 million worth of energy retrofits would typically account for 400 to 600 direct yearlong jobs. Success will depend on the confidence schools have in the potential savings, their willingness to take on new debt during tough economic times, and whether they were already planning improvements.
U.S. Schools Compete to Slash Energy Use in 2012Veronique Pittman, Huffington Post
January 28, 2012
NATIONAL: Students in more than 116 schools across the U.S. are competing to reduce their electricity consumption by participating in the 2012 national Green Cup Challenge (GCC) during peak winter energy usage, Jan. 18 to Feb. 15. (New York City and Chicago will launch separate Challenges on March 2). The national Challenge, now in its fifth year, is a project of the non-profit Green Schools Alliance (GSA), and is designed to raise awareness about energy conservation and provide concrete action towards reduction.
"Experts agree that the best way to save energy is to use less," says Peg Watson, GSA's founder and president. "You can't manage what you don't measure. The GCC teaches students that they have the power to save energy in their schools and homes, and that their actions can translate into positive change in the world," she says.
According to Energystar.gov, America's K-12 schools spend more than $7.5 billion annually on energy, but as much as 30 percent of that energy ($2.25 billion) is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. The GCC has shown that, through awareness and small behavior changes, those wasteful patterns can be reversed.
During the Challenge, students and school staff work together to implement energy-saving strategies; they take weekly readings of school electric meters, and compare the usage to a baseline from previous years' consumption. Data are entered weekly into spreadsheets on the GCC website, providing students with hands-on learning opportunities. The annual GCC video contest has also become a popular showcase for students' talent and environmental passions.
Schools the site of more emergency sheltersErin Ragan , Southeast Missourian
January 27, 2012
MISSOURI: A growing number of emergency shelters in Missouri in recent years may mean more people scramble toward the nearest school the next time a tornado siren sounds. Since 2005, 32 facilities classified as "safe rooms" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been built statewide in public school districts or community colleges. Nine projects are in progress, according to the most recent information available from the agency.
FEMA enters into a cost-sharing agreement with schools to build safe rooms, in most cases providing 75 percent of funding through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, as long as the facilities meet emergency shelter specifications set by the agency. FEMA's requirements for safe rooms vary based on areas of the country where they are built. Areas more at risk for tornadoes, for example, require steel-reinforced, foot-thick concrete walls that can withstand winds of an EF-5 tornado, or up to 250 mph.
loomfield, Mo., the school district will open bids the first week of February for a $1.6 million multipurpose building with FEMA safe-room standards. It will have classrooms, a gymnasium, locker rooms, a concession area and storage areas. "We felt like every community needed a place for the community to go, and if something happened during the school day, we are obligated for the safety of the students," said Dr. Nicholas Thiele, school superintendent.
FEMA will pick up $1.1 million of the tab for the project, which Thiele said should be completed by December. Puxico, a district next door to Bloomfield, is working on a similar FEMA safe room.
Entities covered by a local hazard mitigation plan are eligible for a safe room grant, said Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, which manages the grants. Those entities are typically counties, cities, school districts, colleges and universities. A private entity could be eligible if a city or county applied on its behalf. For example, O'Connell said, a county government could apply on behalf of a private school.
School Building BIll Dead in NashvilleLauren Lee, MyFoxMemphis
January 26, 2012
TENNESSEE: Mark Norris confirmed to Fox13 that he will not sponsor a bill intoduced by fellow Republican Curry Todd to give school buildings to the suburbs. Norris did say that he reserves the right to sponsor similar bills in the future.
The bill would have allowed for school buildings within city limits to be transferred to that city when creating Municipal School Districts. The buildings would be free of charge and the debt would stay with the county. The municipalities are ready to create their own districts so they can separate from the consolidated Memphis and Shelby county schools. Buildings would be a big financial barrier if they had to pay, and some Memphians have said they should have to be bought, but this bill would have cleared the way for that.
Now that the bill is dead, the power is back in the hands of the Unified School Board. That board decides what happens to its buildings.
Safety concerns, fixes extend to 15 Neenan schools in ColoradoEric Gorski, Denver Post
January 26, 2012
COLORADO: Structural issues of varying degrees of seriousness have been identified in every Neenan Co. school project that has received money through a state grant program meant to make school buildings safer. "Corrective actions" are being carried out at each of the 15 school buildings at various stages of completion in eight districts across Colorado, officials said at a meeting of the board that oversees the Building Excellent Schools Today program. Although several of the issues had previously been made public, others were newly disclosed — including a project at Mapleton Public Schools in Adams County involving the largest grant in BEST history.
Neenan officials described the structural issues detailed as ranging from "minor" to "moderate." A state official, however, suggested Neenan was downplaying the seriousness of the situation of a school that faces evacuations if winds reach just 25 mph. In all, schools designed and built by Neenan have received $150 million in money through BEST, which was created in 2008 to help school districts replace and repair worn-down buildings.
Many public schools in D.C.’s poorest area should be transformed or shut, study says; more charters recommendedBill Turque, Washington Post
January 26, 2012
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: A new study commissioned by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray recommends that the city turn around or close more than three dozen traditional public schools in its poorest neighborhoods and expand the number of high-performing charter schools.
The findings of the study by the Chicago-based IFF are likely to rekindle impassioned debate about possible school closures and the future of public education in the District. The study also signals the start of an unprecedented attempt to coordinate decision making between two school sectors that have operated independently and at times competed for funding and other resources.
More than 40 percent of the city’s 78,000 public students attend publicly funded, independently operated charter schools, the largest concentration in the nation outside of New Orleans. At current rates of growth, a majority of the city’s public enrollment could be in charters within three to four years.
Some advocates of traditional public schools have raised questions about possible bias in the study. IFF, which provides financial support and real estate consulting to nonprofit organizations, has made more than $57 million in loans to charter schools, according to information it provided the District. The study was underwritten by a $100,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, one of the nation’s leading benefactors of charter schools. Walton is also a major private donor to D.C. Public Schools. Company officials have said that their work looks at both school sectors objectively.
The study could also eventually serve as the basis for another major round of traditional public school closures, a politically and emotionally bruising process last undertaken by then-Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee during Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s administration. Although traditional public school enrollment has leveled off at about 46,000 after decades of decline, the system still has an excess of capacity. More than 40 schools have 300 or fewer students, many of them struggling academically.
City officials said that decisions about any major restructuring will not be made for at least a year and only after close consultation with affected communities. Gray (D) said Wednesday that there is no basis for concerns that he will hand the city school system over to charter schools, especially given the hundreds of millions of dollars the District has invested in renovating and rebuilding traditional school campuses. “It’s ludicrous,” he said. “I believe very strongly in both sectors, and I’m looking for the best education solutions.” De’Shawn Wright, the deputy mayor for education, said the plan is to meet with Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who heads the school system, and charter school leaders to map out a scenario for meeting the needs of underserved neighborhoods.
LAVA: classroom of the futureStaff writer, Designboom
January 25, 2012
AUSTRALIA: Sydney, Stuttgart and Shanghai-based practice LAVA has designed the 'classroom of the future'. The prefabricated and relocatable classroom unit integrates into the landscape while enhancing the learning environment, allowing adjustments for changing needs of remote schools in Australia. Transforming the stigma of unsightly and unpleasant moveable architecture, this proposal attempts to make learning fun and exciting within a sustainable, practical and cost effective structure. (Includes exterior and interior drawings.)
Baltimore city schools chief wants to borrow $1.2 billion to repair city schoolsJulie Scharper, Baltimore Sun
January 25, 2012
MARYLAND: Baltimore City's schools chief told state legislators that he hopes to borrow $1.2 billion— six times more than the school system's current bonding authority — to pay for a massive and rapid overhaul of the city's crumbling public school buildings.
"What is unique is the extent of the need in Baltimore City," said Andrés Alonso, the school system's CEO, ticking off a list of problems from faulty heating systems to broken windows. "This will allow us to really target, in a short period of time, huge systemic needs."
Alonso told members of the Senate's Budget and Taxation committee that such a plan could save the city time and money by combining the needed repairs into a single construction initiative and that work would begin as soon as funding becomes available.
But the plan hinges on financial commitments from the state and an increase in the city's bottle tax — both of which could prove tough sells. Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel County Democrat, raised concerns about increasing the city's tax on bottled beverages, a proposal that has drawn opposition from retailers and the beverage industry and citizens weary of the city's high tax rates.
"That doesn't seem to be very popular. … There's concern there might be some jobs lost because of it," DeGrange said of the bottle tax. He also urged the city to swiftly secure its funding sources before seeking a guarantee of the state's funds. "They need to have their ducks in a row before they come to us," he said.
School officials and advocates have argued that needs in city schools are great. Alonso has warned that he plans to close more schools because the cost of repairing the dilapidated buildings would be prohibitive. A study commissioned by the school system, which will be released in February or March, will spell out the needs of individual schools, including those which should be closed, he said. "We're going to have to close some schools to lower the cost," Alonso said. "This is not punitive, but this is a tradeoff to give our kids the best possible environment for learning."
Alonso's speech marked the first public acknowledgment that the city hopes to model its construction funding plan on a groundbreaking schools project in Greenville, S.C. Transform Baltimore, a coalition of education advocates led by the American Civil Liberties Union, has been lobbying city leaders to carry out Greenville's plan, which would require a nonprofit or other entity to float the bonds on behalf of the school system. "They really understand that this is the best way to fix our schools," said Bebe Verdery, who leads the ACLU's education project. A 2010 report by the group estimated that the schools required $2.8 billion in repairs.
Alonso asked the state legislature to commit to dedicating at least $32 million a year to school construction. Those funds would be combined with more than $40 million in city money, including proceeds from a proposed bottle tax hike, to generate a funding stream would allow the school system to secure the bonds, Alonso said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who did not attend the briefing, has said that she would devote $23 million in new funds to schools construction to allow the school system to float as much as $300 million in bonds. That includes $10 million from raising the bottle tax from 2 cents to 5 cents, $12 million in savings from a recalculation of the teacher pension plan, and $1.6 million in revenue from a planned slots casino.
Marion, Ohio school official outlines how upgrades have lowered energy costsKurt Moore, Marion Star
January 25, 2012
OHIO: As the public continues to scrutinize school funding, Marion City Schools told a group of business leaders that it is watching its dollars. Assistant Superintendent Roger George outlined ways the district is saving on utility costs. He attributed much of the savings to new and renovated school buildings that were a result of a $97 million Ohio School Facilities Commission project completed in 2004. He also spoke of more recent upgrades that improve monitoring of energy costs. "We are doing our best to save some nickels and dimes," Superintendent James Barney said.
Marion City Schools partnered with the OSFC in 2001 to reduce the number of buildings from 15 to nine. OSFC money and revenue generated by a bond issue and 1999 tax levy funded the project. George said the district spent about $1.43 million on utility costs during the 2004-05 school year. By the 2008-09 school year, the expense had dropped to about $1.36 million, and during the 2010-11 school year was about $1.1 million. "We keep working every year to do a little better," he said.
New schools have allowed for more automation of utilities and more opportunities for energy efficiency. The district's least efficient buildings, George said, are Lincoln Center and Rushmore Academy. Lincoln, located in the former Oak Street Elementary School, and Rushmore, in the former Colonial Acres Elementary School, were not renovated as part of the OSFC project. The school also has worked with the OSFC through its energy conservation program, made possible by House Bill 264 to let school districts improve energy efficiency and use savings to pay for improvements.
The project, according to the OSFC website, included upgrading lights and replacing heating-ventilation-air conditioning chiller systems. The district also installed a technology system to help it monitor its energy use with hopes that the upgrades would result in about $162,566 in annual energy and operational savings.
Marion Harding High School's chiller system will be replaced with a smaller one more suitable to the size of the building. The current system will be kept as a backup to prevent a loss of air conditioning, which occurred in 2010 when the chiller broke down, forcing the high school to dismiss students early. Another part of the effort has been contracting with consortiums such as the Metropolitan Educational Council and Power for Schools to pool customers and save money on utilities. George referred to the district's partnership with Sabo and Associates, a utilities consultant, and said the consultant told him Marion Harding High School is perhaps the most efficient high school in its coverage area.
He also spoke about the district's decisions, such as finding a way to better control lights at the high school, which when first built were programmed to go on and stay on at night. Now, he said, the lights are on a timer, which turns them off at a certain time and back on in the morning.
Celebrating the New Wayland High School. Students and staff settle into state-of-the-art facilityCarole LaMond , Wayland Town Crier
January 25, 2012
MASSACHUSETTS: At Wayland High School, the cramped 500-square-foot classrooms that were designed to accommodate desks set in rows no longer work in this century. The classrooms in the new building are 850 square feet and filled with natural light from a wall of windows, with room for desks and tables where students can gather for small group activities with a teacher or peers. The configuration allows access to computers and ENO boards so that a teacher can incorporate technology to foster creative learning, innovation and problem solving that often involves real world situations.
The new High School is designed for learning, not only with its cutting edge technology capabilities, but with student well-being in mind. Classrooms are placed on the perimeter of the building to maximize natural light and views, which studies show boost student performance. There are meeting rooms for projects and conferences, as well as Americans with Disabilities (ADA) accommodations that enable every student an equal opportunity to access every inch of the building.
In the old building some courses met on the second floor that were effectively off limits to some students with disabilities. “Everything in this building is up to code in terms of safety and also ADA compliant so every student in a wheelchair can get to where they need to be,” said Tutwiler.
Hours of visioning exercises, practical expertise, and an eye to the future were involved in the school design. “Careful thought about student experience, first and foremost, was put into every square inch of the new building,” said Tutwiler. “We put a lot of thought about what we want to do now, and into the future. The key word is flexibility.”
The campus went from eight buildings, each space highly departmentalized, to three buildings that can be completely reconfigured if necessary. The South Building includes the library, a lecture hall, meeting rooms and classrooms, and department offices for five academic subjects.
The North Building houses two fine arts classrooms, choral and band rooms, a 600-seat theater, cafeteria, guidance and administration offices. The old Field House received a face-lift, ADA accessible locker rooms, and a new entrance foyer.
Both buildings, and the newly restored Field House foyer, contain built-in display cases to showcase student work and accomplishments. A large courtyard between the South and North buildings is a landscaped area with seating that can be used as an outdoor classroom and as a social gathering space.
The theme throughout the buildings is about creating a community. The design facilitates ways for students to go about the business of learning and socializing, yet during the school day a student can also find a quieter space apart, but still connected.
School Without Walls Fosters A Free-Wheeling Theory Of LearningSuzanne Labarre, Fast Co Design
January 24, 2012
SWEDEN: Sweden loves its experimental education, but here’s a venture that’s far-fetched even by Swedish standards: It’s a school without walls.
That’s right. Vittra Telefonplan, in Stockholm, was designed according to the principles of the Swedish Free School Organization Vittra, an educational consortium that doesn’t believe in classrooms or classes. So instead of endless rows of desks, it’s got neon-green “sitting islands” and whimsical picnic tables, where students and teachers gather. Instead of study hall, it has “Lunch Club,” a smattering of cafeteria-style tables on a checkerboard floor for working or eating (or both). And instead of an auditorium, it has a faceted blue amphitheater that rises up in the middle of the school like a giant floating iceberg. The place resembles a mini amusement park, only with laptops (yes, each student gets his or her own laptop).
Designer Rosan Bosch points out that Vittra Telefonplan isn’t totally wall-free. “There are both smaller and larger closed rooms for different purposes, such as the sound-isolated Dance Hall for dancing, singing, and exercising, the sound isolated Multimedia Lab for working with film, sound, and music, as well as administrative areas and group rooms,” she tells Co.Design. There are also assorted interior decorations and fixtures that cleverly double as partitions, like the “conversation furniture,” a towering study nook that’s tall enough to pass for a wall.
That was the trick of designing a “school without walls”: It had to be open enough to accommodate the free-wheeling aspects of Vittra’s approach to education (no set classes!). But it also had to include some spatial divisions that could promote different ways of learning--another key part of the Vittra method--such as group work, concentration work, show-and-tell, and so on.
Now, the big question: Does any of this actually help kids get a better education? It’s impossible to know for sure. But as Bosch tells it, “The differentiated spaces allow the children to learn on their own terms, creating different types of learning scenarios. In that way, the design lets the school unfold its potential.”
2 new buildings at Cal, Berkeley show design challengeJohn King, San Francisco Chronicle
January 23, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Literally and figuratively, UC Berkeley's two most recent building projects couldn't be farther apart.
Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences is a stout, 115-foot-tall cube near the northwest corner of campus, skinned in masonry and glass beneath a stainless steel crown that hides mechanical equipment. The addition to the School of Law on the southeast edge of campus is tucked underground, out of sight except for a small dining pavilion where the roof doubles as an artfully landscaped terrace.
Each project is successful on its own terms. Neither fits smoothly into the 180-acre central campus. What they show is that smooth fits may no longer be possible - and that the smart approach from here on is to preserve the best of what survives from early decades but otherwise set out to bring life and energy to the confused terrain that now exists.
The two projects lie outside the classical core revered by generations of graduates, where granite temples of learning line stately paths that frame views of the Golden Gate - "a flight of symbolic poetry" in the words of John Galen Howard, the supervising architect from 1901 to 1924.
Instead, the newcomers sit along the crowded edges developed in large part after 1950, as mundane modern boxes seemingly were crammed wherever they might fit.
Campus planners have worked for decades to return grace to the larger composition. The most recent vision set to paper is the 2020 Long Range Development Plan, a 2005 document that says additions to what it dubs "Campus Park" should "reflect the enduring values of elegance, quality and durability, and form a coherent and memorable identity for the campus as a whole."
By that latter measure, both projects fall short.
Li Ka Shing Center, which opened last week, replaced little-loved and seismically challenged Warren Hall with five floors of classroom space and laboratories. It occupies a steep site poised between Oxford Street, the traditional line between town and gown, and a small grass quadrangle framed by smaller research buildings. Under the 2020 plan, Li Ka Shing should meet Oxford Street with an active ground floor. New building facades, meanwhile, "should be composed primarily of solid planes with punched windows."
Not even close. The design by Oregon's Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects has less to do with Berkeley's heritage than with current design trends for lab buildings across the nation: at once stocky and sleek, with a glass prow here and metal sunscreens there to jazz up the box. The ground floor above Oxford Street is devoted to undergraduate labs set behind dense walls of board-formed concrete. The main lobby instead faces the quad, and it invites passers-by to explore. The terrazzo floor is colorfully patterned; the lobby walls are lined by seating nooks of reclaimed wood. At the rear, a stylish staircase slides past glass walls to the secondary entrance on the downtown side.
California District To Save $15 Million with SolarJoshua Bolkan, THE Journal
January 23, 2012
CALIFORNIA: California's Huntington Beach City School District has completed a 592-kilowatt solar power system that will save the district $15 million over the 25-year life of the project.
Part of a larger project that includes lighting upgrades at nine campuses and the replacement of heating and cooling units at two campuses, the new system comprises photovoltaic panels mounted on shade structures at five schools.
The system, which will meet more than 30 percent of the district's energy needs, was designed, engineered, installed and guaranteed by Chevron Energy Solutions, which will also provide operation and maintenance services. The project was funded in part through the California Solar Initiative, a program that gives cash to citizens and organizations for installing solar systems on their buildings.
Real-time data about the energy being produced and the environmental benefits of the system will also be available to teachers and students for use in math and science classes.
Florida schools, colleges are growing, but state construction money has dried upKim Wilmath and Steve Bousque, Times/Herald
January 22, 2012
FLORIDA: An unfinished university science lab. Leaky roofs in elementary schools. Plans for a new classroom put back on the shelf.
On campuses across Florida, these and other projects are stalled because the state fund that pays for school construction is broke. And it looks like there won't be any money for the next two years.
Blame all those people who gave up their land lines and bought energy efficient appliances. The fund known as PECO, used by schools exclusively for new buildings and maintenance, gets its money from a tax on telephones and electricity.
"We're probably never going to get back to where we were," state university system chancellor Frank Brogan told the Florida Board of Governors last week. Despite the recession, Florida schools, colleges and universities are growing, and the state expects more than 30,000 new students next fall in the K-12 system. But no construction money. All of those students will have to make do with what's there.
Public Education Capital Outlay is in a deficit — and it's rare for the D-word to be spoken aloud in the state Capitol, where deficit spending is prohibited under the state Constitution. Gov. Rick Scott, who vetoed many PECO construction projects in last year's budget, has now asked the Department of Education, Florida College System and State University System to identify $250 million worth of previously authorized projects that could be put on hold. He said he doesn't have an answer to the problem. But he's open to suggestions. "I always listen to everybody's ideas. I try to," Scott said. "I am concerned about how much debt we have and I like the fact that last year, for the first time in 20 years, the debt of the state went down."
Florida's education leaders are compiling lists of all the projects either under way or about to get started. Then they'll have to choose which ones should be allowed to continue and which can wait. Scott asked for recommendations by Feb. 7.
Today's high school construction more customized than text bookMolly Farmer, Deseret News
January 22, 2012
UTAH: High school buildings these days just aren't what they used to be — and that's an intentional change by districts to benefit students, taxpayers and the environment. Along the Wasatch Front, schools currently under construction all employ new techniques and technologies that make this generation of facilities very different from the buildings they're replacing.
"The focus of education has become a lot more individualized over the past decade, and our facilities reflect that," said Ben Horsley, spokesman for the Granite School District. "We don't have that factory model mentality anymore."
Nothing detracts from student learning more than discipline problems, and architects have found that the very layout of a building can have a big impact on preventing cliques from becoming a problem. Long narrow hallways used to breed turf wars, said Turner said, as groups would withdraw to specific wings or hallways. "That's where you get some of the fights," he said.
New high schools all include large common spaces where students can congregate before school and during lunch. While they still hang out in groups, they're more easily observed by administration. Davis' oldest high school building, Bountiful High, will likely be renovated this summer and a new commons area added. "It really helps the administration with fights and crowd control," Turner said.
Building layout influences staff collaboration and student learning as well, Horsley said, and Granite's two high schools that are being rebuilt reflect that. Subjects that complement each other are housed in the same wing, as are teachers who benefit from collaborating on lesson plans. "Each wing houses certain subjects that coordinate well together," he said. Older buildings were built to fit the size of the student body, but layout wasn't as instrumental. "It was just kind of cobbled together. (Today) here's a lot more focus on how the facility can enhance education."
In Davis, newer high schools are arranged in "academic houses" with courses grouped together according to what careers or degrees students hope to acquire after high school. "We have schools within a school," Turner said. Of course, today's buildings have many more electrical outlets and wiring and cables throughout to keep up with the demands of new technology. Even so, one change Turner anticipates to see in the next 10 years is computer labs shrinking and becoming obsolete. With computers in nearly every classroom and a shift to personal electronic devices like laptops and tablets, rows of monitors and towers will be phased out, he said, and students will take their technology with them.
Building experts say building costs have remained pretty steady over the decades when inflation is factored in. But in some cases, districts are opting to spend money now in order to save it later. Horsley said Olympus has invested in a state of the art energy efficient lighting system. LED light bulbs will be installed throughout the building, and will only need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years. "The savings will be dramatic. … We will be able to pay off the up front costs within a few years," he said. "This is what statistics have shown us." Granger's new mechanical systems and a focus on bringing natural light into the building are expected to decrease utility costs by 20 to 30 percent.
Other major cost savings are achieved by choosing when and where to build. Horsley said Granite saved an estimated $20 million to $30 million by choosing to rebuild Granger and Olympus on land the district already owned while school remained in session. It would have cost about $3 to $4 million per school to farm students out to other facilities, and several million dollars more to buy new land. With those cost cutting efforts, the rebuilding price tag for each school is about $70 million. "That's required some creative planning and architecture," Horsley said. "But in the end it saves us a tremendous amount of money."
Suburban Memphis Schools Reports Conclude No Cost To Get BuildingsWhen Forming Seperate School DistrictsBill Dries, Memphis Daily News
January 21, 2012
TENNESSEE: The local discussion about changes to Shelby County’s two public schools systems has shifted to efforts by leaders of the county’s six suburban towns and cities to form their own school system or systems. And the first public review of the reports Tuesday, Jan. 17, by the Germantown Mayor and Board of Aldermen indicated the leaders were encouraged by a report that concludes a suburban school district would not have to pay the countywide school system to get buildings within the boundaries of a separate school district they might form.
The reports by Southern Educational Strategies LLC of Memphis do not recommend a course of action. Leaders of each of the six towns and cities voted last year to have feasibility studies done by SES on how such a separate school system could work for each of their municipalities.
The general conclusion on the critical question of school buildings is the same in each of the three reports.
“It is the opinion of SES and its attorneys that a Bartlett municipal school district has the legal authority to receive transfer of and control of school facilities now located within its boundaries and to have that transfer occur without the imposition of costs with respect to those facilities,” the Bartlett report’s executive summary reads. Identical language changing only the name of the town is also used in the Collierville and Germantown executive summaries.
The reports acknowledge the amount of local spending by taxpayers in each municipal school district that would be required under state law amounts to a 15-cent increase in the city’s property tax rate. But SES concludes the same amount of revenue in each case could be raised by adding half a cent to the local option sales tax rate. There would have to be a referendum on either option and both options could not be used.
The report admits there is “less clarity” about transferring school buildings on which taxpayers are still paying debt. There is no requirement in the Norris-Todd law that such debt be assumed. The attorneys conclude state law and the Tennessee Constitution as well as several cases support the idea that county government debt on schools remains the obligation of county government and county taxpayers in Bartlett, for instance, would continue to pay that debt as part of the overall county property tax rate they already pay.
Review says another Neenan-built school in Colorado at risk with structural defectsEric Gorski, Denver Post
January 20, 2012
COLORADO: A San Luis Valley school, already plagued with other structural issues, has crafted an evacuation plan after an outside engineer questioned the building's ability to withstand winds common to the area. Students will not be allowed in Sargent Junior-High School near Monte Vista if winds exceed 25 mph before repairs are completed in the next week as scheduled, officials said.
An independent review by Greenwood Village-based structural engineers Jirsa Hedrick found inadequate connections between the roof and walls in the gym and auditorium — endangering the entire building.
The Neenan Co., which designed and built the school, has agreed to pay for the repairs and carry them out using the outside firm's designs.
Escalating problems at Sargent are the latest blow to Fort Collins-based Neenan, which has been under scrutiny after similar reviews found serious structural defects at Meeker's $17.9 million elementary school and more minor issues at six other Colorado schools. "We stand behind the buildings we build, and when there are findings like this, where recommendations are prudent, we follow the recommendation out of an abundance of caution," Andy Boian, a spokesman for Neenan, said Thursday.
Neenan already has made fixes to a section of the roof that wasn't designed to handle snow loads at the 190-student Sargent school and put in temporary supports in the library to shore up a beam, officials said.
The review found a long span of roof joists over the gym and auditorium lack adequate connections where they bear on precast concrete wall panels, Jirsa Hedrick wrote in a letter to Neenan on Monday. "Effective immediately, until this repair is complete, the entire school building should not be used if the winds are expected to exceed 25 miles per hour," the letter stated.
The full review is not complete. The repair calls for the joists to be welded to plates in the panels. If winds hit 25 mph before that happens, school will be canceled in advance or students will be evacuated to an old gym across the street and their parents will be contacted to pick them up, Compton said. He said the building has shown no signs of stress because of high winds.
The school opened in fall 2010 and was built with a $17.6 million grant from the state's Building Excellent Schools Today program, as well as a local match. After the problems in Meeker, a Colorado Department of Education official said he requested Neenan contract with firms to carry out independent reviews of 15 schools it designed and built through the grant program — and Neenan agreed. The reviews are ongoing.
The business case for retrofitting quake-deficient schoolsLinda Baker, Oregon Business
January 20, 2012
OREGON: One aspect of school facilities management has been especially neglected: the need to seismically retrofit hundreds of K-12 classroom buildings. The importance of the task cannot be overstated. More than 300,000 Oregon children attend school in buildings that could injure or kill them in a major earthquake. That major earthquake is coming. Scientists say there is a 40% probability of an 8.0 magnitude or higher seismic event striking the region in the next 50 years, a quake that is also expected to trigger a massive tsunami on the Oregon coast.
In an earthquake prone region, seismically safe schools should be a categorical imperative—and I say that not only because I suffered the anxiety of having kids attend K-8 in a PPS building rated at 100 percent risk of collapse in an earthquake. And yet, as any parent knows, money for public education is in short supply, and seismic upgrades are often last on the list of a busy school district’s priorities.
Enter the private sector, which is stepping up its involvement in education policy. Seismic school safety may not be, specifically, a business problem. Yet the increasingly close relationship between private business and public education raises an intriguing question: Is there a business case for seismically retrofitting Oregon’s public schools? For answers, I turned to Edward Wolf, a local seismic school safety advocate and writer. His responses provide a fresh take on Oregon's seismic school safety challenges, while also highlighting the role secure school buildings, in addition to strong school services, assume in sustaining the state's economy.
OB: Does business have a stake in the problem of quake deficient schools? Wolf: Traditionally, seismic retrofits have been considered a safety investment, and for many people that is enough. But as Oregon comes to grips with the pervasiveness of the state’s earthquake risk, it’s now possible to enumerate the ways that seismic retrofit provides forms of risk reduction that benefit the broader economy. The fact that seismic retrofit projects employ a range of labor-intensive building trades, achieving significant job creation as Oregon begins to emerge from the Great Recession, is an [important] business benefit. At the Floyd Light Middle School in East Portland, a comprehensive state-funded seismic retrofit last summer employed a general contractor, six subcontracting firms, and an average site crew of fifteen workers for three months. That business case explains itself.
OB: Is there a less obvious reason why school retrofits should matter to the business community? Wolf: The insurance case is less familiar. As local communities and the state make long-term investments to modernize the energy and water systems of old school buildings--for example, in the state’s Cool Schools program — and to pay off those investments from the savings realized, seismic strengthening helps ensure that the payback will not be interrupted or ended by earthquake damage.
Q: What is the relationship between seismically safe schools and business continuity planning? Wolf: One key to economic recovery from a regional disaster is a functional school system. Workers cannot return to their own jobs after a disaster if their children are unable to attend school. Seismic retrofits can ensure that at least some schools within a district remain intact and functional after an earthquake, and classes can resume. A normal school routine allows commerce to resume, freeing the main engine for recovery from disaster.
Schools' Never Ending CashpotPaul C. Clark, Rhino Times
January 19, 2012
NORTH CAROLINA: The Guilford County Board of Education, which hasn't yet finished spending the leftover money from the rebuilding of Eastern Guilford High School, is already spending money left over from projects that are part of its current, $457 million construction program. That money is mostly to pay for other projects that have gone over budget, rather than rebidding them or eliminating features to stay within budget.
The latest pool of money the school board is dipping into is $3.4 million left over from the construction of the new Jamestown Middle School, which was bid early in the program, when projects were coming in under budget.
Voters approved the $457 million in school bonds in May 2008 – and the school board began the construction program after the great market crash of September 2008, in the best construction market in decades.
The school board is now going great guns on its building program, but its slowness in starting many of the 27 projects, combined with its byzantine system for picking architects, program managers and project managers, resulted in Guilford County Schools reaping the benefits of the cheap construction market for only the earliest of its projects.
Lately, Guilford County Schools construction projects have increasingly been coming in over budget, leaving the school board scrambling to pay for projects with money it has stashed away from earlier projects and construction programs – of which it seems to have an endless pool.
In November 2011, for example, the school board approved spending $6.3 million left over from $500 million in school bonds approved by voters in 2000 and 2003. The school board apparently doesn't close out construction projects until the school that was built crumbles to dust. The school board, on the recommendation of Guilford County Schools Chief Financial Officer Sharon Ozment, approved shifting the $6.3 million from the school bond projects originally funded by voters to others.
The situation with many construction projects has been complicated by school board members – the majority of whom are not involved until the times comes to approve a contract. At that point, school board members argue to add extra features to schools in their districts
An Unsafe School Environment Can Affect Students’ Health and Academic PerformanceJennifer Hammonds, Wildlife Promise
January 19, 2012
NATIONAL: In my years as a classroom teacher, I noticed an increase in the number of students who missed school due to respiratory problems. Why the increase? Was it the school itself? I wondered what secrets the building held.
Considering that students spend approximately 1,239 hours in school during the course of a school year (based on 177 days of instruction, that’s almost half of a year), you might think the health of the school’s facilities would be a priority for administrators. Unfortunately, school districts nationwide face tremendous budget constraints and are often forced to make tough decisions about what they spend money on. But at what cost—or, better yet, at whose cost?
New labs full of fun on the way for Mansfield studentsBryan Bullock , Mansfield News Journal
January 18, 2012
OHIO: City students will have a new place to learn about science next fall -- an environment where education involves seeing and hands-on experience. Mansfield City Schools Board of Education voted to seek bids for construction of four interpretive exhibits at Springmill Learning Center. The experiential learning areas are scheduled to be completed Sept. 1 at the once-vacant elementary school. Each of the four exhibits is themed around a core academic standard and will occupy its own room. The rooms will focus on chemistry, earth studies, senses and gears, levers and pulleys.
"This really complements our program here in Mansfield as far as hands-on and environmental learning," Superintendent Dan Freund said. The four exhibits, he said, are estimated to cost about $80,000 to construct.
Five more science exhibits are planned at the building as well as four history exhibits, said Brad Strong, an outdoor education teacher involved in the Springmill project. He said the exhibit rooms will be designed in detail around instructional goals -- including the ceilings and floors. "The ceiling in the earth studies room is going to be absolutely amazing," Strong said. He said a map of the earth will appear on the ceiling and it will be overlaid with a grid of latitudes and longitudes. "It will have fiber optic lights and students can hit a button on the wall and continents will light up," Strong said. "The lighting will also show where the population centers are."
He said the earth studies room will allow students to identify rocks through a game station; interact with wall-mounted tectonic plates; and learn about earthquakes, glaciers and soil erosion on a table designed to look like a coal mining cart. Strong said every exhibit room will have unique, interactive stations designed to be fun and informative.
The district has been working since spring to turn the former Springmill Elementary School into a science and outdoor education center. Mansfield students in grades four through six have been visiting the high-ropes course at the building since it opened in November. The course consists of seven obstacles of varying difficulty -- including a boulder wall, a climbing wall and a tree root climb. Strong said Springmill will open its bird study area next month. The area, which is still being constructed, includes a variety of educational displays and an outdoor nesting area.
School officials say Mansfield will use permanent improvement funds, donations and grants to complete the building projects. The district hopes to generate revenue through renting Springmill facilities out to other groups. Freund said the district's repurposing of the 50-year-old building is pioneering. He said he regularly gets emails from other schools and groups interested in the project. "I don't know if there is anything like this anywhere else in the country," Freund said.
University Of Vermont Building Undergoes Major Green RenovationMia Moran, WPTZ.com
January 17, 2012
VERMONT: A newly-renovated building on the UVM campus is being called one of the most energy-efficient retrofits on any college campus. The George D. Aiken Center, which is home to the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, underwent a 13 million dollar construction project to make the building greener.
The biggest change lies within its walls, according to the building architect, who said an air-tight enclosure now makes the structure 62% more energy-efficient. A ventilation system that can sense when people enter or leave a room was installed. There is also a solarium, zone lighting, cork flooring and 50% more windows. "All universities are doing green building but what few are doing is taking existing building stock and saying how do we make those as good as our new buildings. This building in terms of energy performance is one of the best buildings around whether new or old," said the building architect Bill Maclay.
Another highlight is the eco-machine in the building's lobby. It will eventually treat the entire building's waste water and recycle it into water that can be used to flush the toilets and water the plants.
New Hampshire school building aid needed nowEditorial staff, Seacoastonline.com
January 17, 2012
NEW HAMPSHIRE: After a tour of the Newmarket Junior/Senior High School, there's no doubt in our minds the 88-year-old school is falling apart. Unfortunately, the school district and local taxpayers may have to wait until a freeze on state school building aid is lifted.
On the tour, a News-Letter reporter witnessed cramped hallways. When classroom doors open, students have only three feet to travel. Plaster is falling from the walls and several of the school's 10-year-old computers are broken. Not to mention the fact some classrooms don't have heat and must rely on space heaters to keep students warm.
During late spring — without any heating or cooling system — some classrooms get as hot as 97 degrees. Chemistry teacher Jim Fabiano said he took his class outside. While typical science experiments in middle school require the use of a Bunsen burner, students can't use them. The classroom is not equipped with gas.
An art teacher said she doesn't even have a blackboard, so she crafted one on the back of the dark room door with blackboard paint.
There's no elevator; only a lift used by disabled students. The lift, which can only fit one student at a time, takes two-and-a-half minutes to get to the second floor. In the event of a fire, the disabled student would need to be carried from the second floor by either the principal or a firefighter.
This is unacceptable, and it presents a safety hazard for our local children. Last year, the state fire marshal gave the Newmarket School District four years to comply with the fire and life safety codes. According to Superintendent Jim Hayes, before the 2015-16 school year all necessary repairs must be completed; otherwise, the school must be abandoned or reconstructed. With existing fire and life safety issues at the Junior/Senior High School, it has been estimated that repairing all problems would cost approximately $2 million. At the same time, the school district is eyeing a new school, to be located across the street from its current location, where Carpenter's Greenhouse is currently located.
Rather than spending up to $2 million to bring the building completely up to code, Hayes said, he would rather put the money into building a new school.
An article on the 2012 school district warrant asking taxpayers to "raise and appropriate an undetermined sum to purchase four properties at 216, 218, 220 and 204 South Main St. for the purpose of building the new school." While the price of those properties has not been settled, there is $518,929 in an open space fund the school district hopes to utilize. The remaining balance would be withdrawn from the school facilities capital reserve fund. The total from these two sources is roughly $1.6 million.
While we'd rather see the money going to a new school than toward Band-Aid approaches, two things have to happen. First, the state Legislature must lift the moratorium on school building aid. New Hampshire has helped pay for public school construction since 1955 without limits on who could get aid, but now the state may prioritize which projects are funded. The House is slated to vote on a pair of bills in the coming months that would create a ranking system similar to one used by Maine to determine which projects get state aid. Senate Education Chairwoman Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, is introducing a similar bill in the Senate.
Second, Newmarket voters would have to approve the purchase of the adjacent properties and then, in the future, a bond for a new school.
West Virginia School Building Authority spends $750 million in new school constructionWhitney Burdette , State Journal
January 17, 2012
WEST VIRGINIA: The West Virginia School Building Authority has spent more than $750 million during the past three years to construct 128 new elementary, middle and high schools across the state.
Mark Manchin, executive director of the SBA, told members of the House Education Committee that 75 percent of West Virginia students attend school in better facilities than what was available in 1990. The $750 million that the state has spent came from lottery and excess lottery funds and pays not only for construction but also safety mechanisms. Manchin said other states should be envious of West Virginia schools.
"Invariably, we always think someone has it better," he said. "We don't have to take a backseat to anyone."
Delegate Brady Paxton, D-Putnam and vice-chairman of the House Education Committee, said the SBA is "on the cutting edge of innovation and green building technology." According to Manchin, many of the state's schools are LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certified. "Our schools are extremely energy efficient," he said. "If you go in our new schools, you'll see things you won't believe."
But energy efficiency isn't the only thing the SBA focuses on. Student safety is also a top priority. Manchin said many new schools include keyless or manned entries, which means pedestrians can't enter the building. The SBA also entered a $5 million contract with Patriot Services to digitally map all classrooms in West Virginia. This will aid first responders by showing them how the building is laid out and access points where they can reach students. Manchin said many of the students killed at Columbine High School in 1999 were killed after first responders were on the scene. He said with digital maps, first responders could have known how to access the students.
As a result of the contract, Manchin said, "35 counties have now been complete. By the end of next year, all 55 counties will have every single classroom digitally mapped." The SBA also is conducting vulnerability assessments to gauge school safety and show which schools need safety improvements. For example, Manchin said, Wheeling Park High School has 120 exterior doors. "How many of us actually give thought to that?" he asked the committee.
Manchin did not ask the committee to appropriate any more money to the committee, but he did point out that the cost of school construction is rising. A new middle schools costs between $15 million and $18 million, while a new high school could cost as much as $50 million. Although the SBA has spent less than half of its appropriated $1.6 billion, it can't necessarily keep up with accelerating costs. In absence of a bond sale, the SBA expects to have $13.4 million available in 2012 and $15.7 million in 2014.
Are schools unhealthy?Debbie Nicholson, Allvoices
January 16, 2012
NATIONAL: Schools across the United States are starting to get media attention and it is not for their academic programs. Stories of schools being built on industrial land, mold in classrooms and poor air quality are coming surface and children are not the only one's affected, teachers are also plagued by health risks.
Southside High School in Elmira, New York was built on land that was used for heavy industry for over 100 years. The joke of the town was the lake never froze due to the fact it was full of chemicals.
This was no joke for at least two dozen current and former students have developed cancer. The school district thought the price was right a dollar price tag for an aging industrial complex to build a school.
Construction of a school in Los Angeles came to a sudden halt when parents had learned its location was a former oil field. Cesar Chavez High School in Houston, Texas in 2000 the school had its opening and shortly after a group called Unidos Contra Environmental Racism protested the location of the school being close to too many chemical plants. One quarter mile down the road you will find chemical plants which include Texas Petroleum and Good Year Chemical.
In Marion Ohio, two school had been built on a former military dumping ground, former students just in these schools similar to Elmira have higher than normal rates of leukemia and other rare cancers. Concrete numbers are difficult to obtain but studies have estimated that a third or more of U.S. Schools contain dust, mold and other indoor air problems which are serious enough to exasperate respiratory problems such as asthma not only in children but in teachers as well.
Connecticut allergist Dr. John Santilli stated he had treated dozens of students that had been sickened from the school air. Noting that even if children do not miss school the medications taken for asthma and conditions such as rhinitis can make it difficult for them to the best of their work.
Researchers and others who keep track of this problem note that school air problems have most likely been intensified in recent years due to cut backs in funding which result in less money for maintenance and upkeep. It is not just the air quality that is causing these health issues. Such as in the case of Joellen Lawson was once a special education teacher at an elementary school in Fairfield, Connecticut., that was until her health took a negative turn due to the school being with mold heavily built up. She is currently on disability with a range of health problems including COPD which had left her with 50% of lung capacity. There are no federal health standards for school air. According to experts cleaning it does not help. The source of moisture needs to found and eliminated. Dust a likely trigger for asthma found under lockers, top of bulletin boards and corners in classrooms.
A New York Health Department survey found 99% of elementary schools reported dust or accumulations of dust in classrooms. Transportation for children school buses and cars produce harmful exhaust fumes. Those vehicles idling away outside the schools release fumes that can enter through school doors, windows and air intakes in the buildings. Blocked vents by papers or books in classrooms whether it is heating or cooling units decrease air flow and could possibly cause condensation which can result in mold.
School districts buying pressed wood furniture that contains formaldehyde which can trigger asthma and is also listed as a possible carcinogen. A study from University of Michigan published in the May edition 2011 journal Health Affairs, had found schools located in areas with the highest industrial air pollution levels had the lowest attendance rates, an indicator of poor health along with the highest portion of students who failed to meet the state educational testing standards. The locations with the highest industrial air pollution had included Grand Rapids area, Muskegon are and Detroit Metropolitan area.
Last year Assessing Outdoor Air Near Schools was listed Spain Elementary School in Detroit. Primary findings had indicated Levels of benzene and 1,3-butadiene in the air at the school were not as high as was suggested by the modeling information available prior to monitoring and are below the levels of concern that had been suggested by the modeling information available prior to sampling. However, these results indicate the influence of mobile source pollutants of concern that are the focus of EPA actions nationwide. The EPA at that time did not extend air toxic monitoring at the school. In 2000, Detroit Public Schools had made a commitment to ensure environmentally safe schools buildings when it had established Department of Environmental Safety. Prior to 2000, the land for Roberto currently located on Beard Street in Detroit, was going under environmental corrections after contaminants were found on the proposed site. The USEPA imposed the largest fine ever given against a school district in the amount of $1.4 million. The fine was for failure to monitor and maintain asbestos containing materials in schools (1999) and fined $4,000 from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for failing to abolish asbestos containing materials utilizing licensed and certified contractors.
To make sure these incidents never happen again the school district complies environmental regulatory standards to provide safe and clean learning environments.
Florida Officials Halt Funding for School Construction ProjectsGary Fineout, NBC Miami
January 13, 2012
FLORIDA: Florida's schools, community colleges and state universities could be forced to halt, or put off for years, scores of new construction projects, including repairs on roofs and air-conditioners due to a dramatic drop in available state money. State officials are so worried about the decline that they took the unusual step Thursday of stopping payments to some projects, including some that may only be halfway completed. Officials were gathering information on which projects need to cease. On top of that, Gov. Rick Scott has asked that schools and colleges return as much as $250 million to the state.
Scott made the request because a new forecast shows the state will have zero new construction dollars available for schools and colleges for the next two years. In order to cover projects that were already approved, the governor wants to use money that may be left over from other construction jobs. "Due to this significant shortfall, it has become necessary for difficult decisions to be made on which projects may be funded and which must be discontinued at this point in time," Scott wrote in a letter that he sent out to top education officials this past Tuesday.
The governor made the request for schools to give him back construction money on the same day that he publicly urged lawmakers to increase spending on day-to-day operations for schools by $1 billion. Scott said he wants to work with state lawmakers to deal with the construction money shortfall, but it comes at a time when top Republican legislators are at already odds over the state budget.
Currently the state primarily uses money from a tax charged on utilities and cable bills to pay for school construction projects, although in the past they have also used money from lottery ticket sales and even the state's sales tax.
State lawmakers use part of this utility tax to pay for maintenance and repair projects at public schools as well as colleges and universities. But they also pledge part of the money to pay off bonds that have been used to pay for new school buildings. Scott last year vetoed a long list of school building projects — although not money for a controversial branch campus of the University of South Florida in Lakeland — because he worried about a sharp decline in the tax proceeds used for construction.
In his memo this week, Scott said despite his veto the drop "exceeded most projections" and has left the state unable to borrow any more money. Scott asked that state education officials give him a list by Feb. 7 that spells out if there is unused money left over from older construction projects that can be shifted to cover $250 million worth of projects that have been approved but not yet funded.
Meanwhile, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson and State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan on Thursday sent out a memo telling school superintendents, university presidents and college presidents that they were suspending payments for new projects due to the shortfall. The memo says that the suspension will remain in effect until the Florida Legislature provides further direction. The suspension does not apply to previously approved contracts.
New California state architect to discuss enforcement of earthquake safety requirements for public schoolsCorey G. Johnson, California Watch
January 12, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Newly appointed State Architect Chester Widom is slated to discuss what steps seismic regulators are taking to address problems with their enforcement of earthquake safety requirements for public schools. Widom will brief the state Seismic Safety Commission in Sacramento about a scathing California State Auditor report that concluded that the Division of the State Architect's oversight of school construction projects was “neither effective nor comprehensive.”
The Seismic Safety Commission is made up of commissioners chosen for their expertise and experience. The group includes the state architect, a geologist, a fire protection specialist and a local building official. Established in 1975, after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, the commission investigates earthquakes, researches earthquake-related issues and recommends threat reduction policies and programs to the governor and Legislature.
The session with the Seismic Safety Commission is likely the first of several public meetings where Widom will discuss the actions of engineers, supervisors and managers at the state architect's office.
Additional questions loom in the face of new revelations that state regulators routinely destroyed key documents that might have shed light on their lax enforcement of earthquake safety standards – despite a binding agreement it has with the State Archives to preserve public records.
Corbett and other legislators called for the audit of the state architect's office in May after a California Watch investigation found that the agency routinely failed to enforce California’s landmark earthquake safety law for public schools – known as the Field Act – and allowed children and teachers to occupy buildings with structural flaws and potential safety hazards reported during construction. All public schools must be certified as meeting Field Act standards, and school board members, builders, architects and inspectors can be charged with a felony for failing to follow the act's provisions.
More than 16,000 school projects currently lack Field Act certification, and at least 59,000 more have yet to be fully reviewed by the state architect’s office to identify their Field Act status.
State auditors found that the state architect's office rarely used the enforcement tools it possesses, didn’t adequately document the safety issues it identified and didn't prioritize projects with safety concerns. The report also noted breakdowns in the state's oversight of inspectors.
High marks for new Wellesley school building: latest technology, green features, historical elementsJennifer Fenn Lefferts , Boston Globe
January 12, 2012
MASSACHUSETTS: Teachers and students will move into the new Wellesley High School next month as the $115 million project finishes five months early, and a few million dollars under budget. The new building is resplendent with the latest technology and green features, yet it incorporates many elements representing the history of its predecessor, which was built in 1938.
In addition to featuring smart boards in every classroom, built-in sound systems in the band and chorus rooms, a rock-climbing wall in the gym, skylights for added natural light in the art rooms, and a central first-floor cafeteria with outdoor seating, the building also has many green elements.The school features a 100,000-gallon tank that will gather rainwater to be used for the toilets, for example. There is a green roof with plantings that will help with insulation and energy efficiency, and help protect the roof from sun and weather damage.
Gurney said there are two geothermal wells to provide heat and cooling in the administrative offices and fitness areas, solar panels on the roof, and a shade system in several classrooms to help control the amount of direct sunlight.
All classrooms are arranged on the outside of the building to make use of natural light, all lighting fixtures are energy efficient, and the library and auditorium feature displaced ventilation systems to save energy and improve the air quality, Gurney said.
Other highlights of the building include historical elements that were either moved or replicated from the old school. Front and center at the base of the staircase at the building’s entrance are the eagle and weathervane that were atop the cupola of the old school. In addition, a wall in the lobby features the same “W’’ design that is on the cupola. The clock from the cupola was removed and installed at the top of a tower on the north side of the new school. There are also several old light fixtures, plaques, and other memorabilia spread around throughout the new building, Gurney said.
A distinctive feature is the 1938 Room, set up in the library as a tribute to the old school. To be used as classroom space, it features cabinetry and trim from an original section of the old high school. There are wall sconces that came from the exterior of the 1938 building, and hardwood flooring from the original Wellesley High School, which later became the Wellesley Country Club. The floors were saved when the country club was demolished in 2008. “It’s a historical tribute to the existing building," Gurney said.
Hot Off the Presses! The Center for Green Schools 2011 Report CardJenny Wiedower, Center for Green Schools Blog
January 10, 2012
NATIONAL: The Center for Green Schools just finished its first infographic, which depicts our work since being founded in September 2010, highlighting our reach, resources and really inspiring events.
Though the U.S. Green Building Council has worked to advance market transformation in the education facilities sector for years, the creation of the Center marked a moment in time when USGBC accelerated its commitment to green schools by supporting the audiences and activities that will drive us toward our vision of green schools for everyone within this generation. As this infographic shows, the Center focuses its work around engaging, equipping and deploying the people who make the case, make the decisions, get things done and partner with us.At the same time, we take a holistic approach by impacting the three components of green schools: buildings, community and curriculum.
To us, proof that we are making good on our bold mission to make green schools a mainstream message is captured in this infographic. Our eight programs catalyze change at the K12 and Higher Ed level in every state in the country, and the LEED green building rating system serves as a means of transforming building stock, teaching students sustainability and preparing students, teachers and staff for 21st century jobs.
How are we doing this, and in such a short amount of time? Check out the infographic yourself for some of our milestones, measurements and memorable moments!
Ambitious Energy Goals in SOM Plan for NYC CampusFred A. Bernstein, Architectural Record
January 09, 2012
NEW YORK: When New York City named Cornell University and The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology winners of its highly touted competition for a new “tech campus,” there were cheers in Ithaca and Haifa. Also celebrating were architects in the New York office of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, whose design for the campus, on the south end of Roosevelt Island, were part of Cornell and Technion’s proposal. Among the revelers was Roger Duffy, the partner who has been building the firm’s education practice since the 1990s. Duffy’s current projects include a project for the New School, at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and P.S. 62, a public school on Staten Island that, if all goes according to plan, will be the one of the largest “net zero” buildings in the United States.
Now Duffy is making a much bigger promise: If Cornell and Technion follow through with SOM’s winning plan, the 400,000-square-foot first phase of the tech campus will also create as much energy as it uses. A solar array that will generate 1.8 megawatts at daily peak and a four-acre “deep earth” geothermal well field will provide heating and cooling and will also recharge fuel cells. According to Duffy, who tends to speak grandly—but in this reporter’s experience, delivers what he promises—the need to produce, and conserve, energy will affect every aspect of the design, with strictly formal considerations giving way to what he calls “a new aesethetic” of sustainability.
Renderings released by SOM show eight silver-colored buildings arranged in a zigzag pattern on the south end of the island where a complex of hospital facilities currently stands. SOM’s buildings, which are meant to foster “impromptu meetings that lead to innovation,” Duffy says, will have large interior courtyards and will be linked by above-ground walkways. The firm’s history with such walkways has not been entirely positive. Back in the mid-1960s Walter Netsch of SOM's Chicago office designed the new campus for the University of Illinois Chicago Circle, which was hailed in part for its extensive system of elevated pedestrian walkways. Thirty years later, the walkways, widely seen as a disaster, were torn down.
Dayton, Ohio district celebrates its new schoolsAmelia Robinson,, Dayton Daily News
January 09, 2012
OHIO: Like Ohio’s other urban school districts, Dayton Public Schools was saddled with school buildings on their last legs a decade ago. The average age of the city’s schools was 75 with several constructed in the 1890s. There were leaky roofs and electrical problems throughout the district.
The situation was so bad at one school that turning on the microwave in a teacher’s lounge meant shutting down an entire student computer lab, then-Dayton Public School Superintendent Percy Mack recalled Sunday during the dedication of Wright Brothers PreK-8 School, the last of 26 new schools built as part of a $627 million construction project. The ceremony at 1361 Huffman Ave. marked the completion of an effort that started when voters approved a $245 million bond issue in 2002.
“Sixty-four percent of the (voters) in this community said we need new schools for children and ladies and gentlemen, that should be applauded,” said Mack, now superintendent of South Carolina’s Richland One Schools.
The state provided 61 percent of the project cost and the bond issue provided the 39 percent local share.
Dayton is the first of the state’s eight urban districts to compete its school construction project. It was on time and budget, officials said crediting teamwork.
Governor O’Malley to push $350 million for Maryland school constructionJohn Wagner, Washington Post
January 09, 2012
MARYLAND: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will propose spending more than $350?million next year on public school construction, the second highest amount in state history, according to several people familiar with his plans. O’Malley (D) will cast his proposal as one in a series of initiatives meant to spur job creation as the state recovers from the national recession, aides said.
O’Malley, whose office declined to comment publicly Monday on his plans, has sought to make school construction a priority since he first ran for governor in 2006.
News of an uptick in funding was welcomed by officials in the Washington suburbs. “We have a host of schools where people still don’t have gyms, where they are sitting in closets, where they don’t get fed until 2 o’clock in the afternoon because the cafeteria isn’t big enough,” said Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda).
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said the proposed funding would spur local job growth in the construction sector. “Of course,” he added, “you have to make certain that you get your fair share of that amount.”
Since taking office in 2007, O’Malley has consistently proposed meeting or exceeding a 2004 goal of spending at least $250 million a year on school construction — most of it through borrowing. That amount has still fallen well short of what has been requested annually by Maryland counties. Last year, lawmakers approved $250 million for school construction during the current fiscal year under the state’s capital program. An additional $47.5 million was earmarked from an increase in the state’s sales tax on alcohol.
Bill seeks to create funding to rebuild tornado-damaged Alabama schoolsStaff Writer, Birmingham Business Journal
January 09, 2012
ALABAMA: State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow has pre-filed a legislative bill that would provide funding to help rebuild six schools in Alabama that were severely damaged by last April’s tornadoes that swept through the state. According to the Times Daily, the bill will make a supplemental appropriation of more than $32 million from the Education Trust Fund to the five school systems.
The DeKalb County School System would receive $3.8 million for Plaiview High School; the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education would receive $2.4 million for Alberta Elementary and University Place Elementary schools; the Tuscaloosa County School System would receive $1.1 million for Holt Elementary; the Marion County School System would receive $13.8 million for Hackleburg High School; and the Franklin County School System would receive $11.6 million for Phil Campbell High School.
Long Island schools go green to save moneyJoie Tyrell, Newsday
January 09, 2012
NEW YORK: Facing tight budgets, dwindling state aid and a 2 percent property-tax cap, Long Island's school districts are focused on taming energy costs. The Long Island Power Authority last year gave public and private schools nearly $2 million in rebates for energy-efficiency upgrades -- nearly double the previous year. Projects range from replacing old lights and windows and investing in heating and ventilation systems to installing solar panels and considering the purchase of natural-gas-powered buses.
At Center Moriches High School, a flat-screen monitor in the hallway charts the daily energy generated by newly installed roof solar panels. On sunny days that electricity can provide 35 kilowatts to power the school's media center.
The solar panels are expected to save more than $8,000 in energy costs each year and are just one facet of the small Suffolk County district's energy performance program -- an overall effort projected to save more than $2 million over the next 15 years.
"Any time that we can do something that saves the district money, ultimately it saves the taxpayer money and gives us the opportunity to do more for our students," said Joseph McHeffey, president of the district's board of education. "Couple that with anything that's green. . . . It's a win-win-win for everybody." Since 2006, LIPA has provided rebates to 60 schools to install solar panels.
Schools "are getting the message that energy efficiency is a savings directly for their constituents, and those savings can then be used for actual programs. Without increasing the budget, you get a double benefit. You lower your energy costs and you can utilize those savings for programs," said Michael Deering, LIPA's vice president for environmental affairs.
Wyoming Natrona County School District moves ahead in school construction fightJackie Borchardt, Tribune
January 08, 2012
WYOMING: Natrona County’s ambitious high school construction plan is in the hands of lawyers. The school district intends to design high school renovations and construction for more students than what the state approved in November and can front up to $30 million to resume the process stalled since July, said Superintendent Joel Dvorak.
State officials have estimated an extra $29 million to $32 million would be needed to add space for about 500 students to the plan to renovate Natrona County and Kelly Walsh high schools and build a new, shared campus that also houses Roosevelt High School.
Dvorak said the district can generate the money through a lease-purchase agreement, when a project is completed with a loan paid over several years. At the end of the “lease” agreement, the project is turned over completely to the lessee. Meanwhile, the district plans to seek informal review and possibly a court hearing on the decision made by the state School Facilities Commission in November.
Projects were put on hold in July by the state School Facilities Department to commission “educational specifications,” descriptions of the academic programming and space needed to deliver that programming. Ohio-based firm Fanning Howey presented several scenarios for buildings that meet the district’s new academy curriculum. The firm recommended the district’s preferred plan — renovate existing high schools and build a new facility, with all projects starting at the same time — as the “most cost-effective remedy.”
The School Facilities Commission is required to accept the “most cost-effective remedy” per changes to state law in 2011, and district officials say state law requires the commission to consider community impact in the remedy. Several city of Casper officials have said the proposed plan to move students to Kelly Walsh during renovations would be a public health and safety risk.
The commission’s decision also goes against the 2008 Wyoming Supreme Court decision referred to as Campbell IV, which requires the state to provide adequate and equitable school facilities, according to the school district’s attorney in the request for an informal hearing.
N.J. Assembly committee OKs private school buildersJessica Calefati, Star-Ledger
January 06, 2012
NEW JERSEY: An Assembly committee unanimously endorsed legislation that would allow private companies to build and manage up to a dozen public schools in three of the state’s neediest cities, where school construction has otherwise ground to a halt in recent years. Known as the Urban Hope Act, the bill is one of four Gov. Chris Christie has been pressuring the Legislature to advance during its lame duck session, which ends next week. The measure could give businesses unprecedented control over public education in Newark, Camden and Jersey City, the three districts where companies could soon build and own schools.
The Schools Development Authority is responsible for construction in these and other low-income districts, but dozens of projects have been stalled since Christie took office — and no schools have been built to replace those that are crumbling or overcrowded.
One of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Gloucester), said he expects the full Senate and Assembly to pass the measure Monday, the last day of the current legislative session. "We have spent enough money and endured enough failure, especially in our urban districts," Norcross said. "It’s time to do things differently in a limited, focused way."
Nonprofit operators interested in starting up to four new schools, called "renaissance school projects," must apply to the state Department of Education and demonstrate experience working in a "high-risk, low-income urban district," according to the bill. Those nonprofit groups are free, however, to contract with businesses to purchase land, construct facilities or manage the schools. They are not required to follow public bidding laws to select contractors.
The governor unveiled the Urban Hope Act in June at Camden’s Lanning Square Elementary, a school slated for reconstruction by the school development agency. After August’s earthquake, city officials condemned the dilapidated building as unsafe for students. Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) said the SDA’s inaction has been a "major stimulus" of the legislation. "Not one school has been built under the Christie administration over the past three years," Greenwald said. "For students in Camden where the walls are falling down and students in Phillipsburg who take class in trailers, it’s a tragedy to deprive those children of better facilities."
Low-income Canadian students face health risks due to location of schools, report findsJanet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun
January 05, 2012
VANCOUVER, CANADA: Children in low-income neighbourhoods are more likely than their well-to-do peers to attend schools located near major roads that are a source of air and noise pollution, according to a new study. The study, by researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of B.C., found that about 22 per cent of public elementary schools in low-income neighbourhoods in Canada's 10 largest cities were within 75 metres of a major road, compared to 13 per cent in high-income neighbourhoods. On average, 16.3 per cent of public elementary schools had a similar proximity to significant traffic. That suggests students attending schools in low-income neighbourhoods face increased risk of health problems and learning difficulties.
"Studies of children who live near major roads have found that traffic-related air pollution is associated with lower lung function, impaired lung growth, asthma, ear infections and lower cognitive functioning," SFU geography grad student Ofer Amram said in a news release. "Similar studies of traffic-related noise have found links with increased blood pressure, reduced sleep quality and cognitive deficits."
The Metro schools included in the study were all within the Vancouver school district boundaries, but Amram said he could not name specific schools. "We looked generally at the data," he said. "We didn't actually zero in on specific schools."
Vancouver school board chair-woman Patti Bacchus said she isn't convinced there is a significant difference between the number of schools in the east and west sides of Vancouver that are close to major roads. "There are definitely a lot of schools on busy roads, but I'm not sure I see a real difference based on demographics." Urban school districts don't have a lot of choice about where to build new schools, although they can ensure they are designed in a way that minimizes the effect of traffic on air quality and student safety, she said. But schools bring their own traffic to a neighbourhood, and Bacchus said the bigger concern about air quality around Vancouver schools is a result of cars idling in the parking lot and on adjacent streets while parents wait for their children.
The researchers suggested more study is needed because they didn't review the history of school and road construction or changes in neighbourhood economic conditions. "It might be useful to explore whether low-income residents are drawn to neighbourhoods with schools close to roads [e.g., due to lower housing prices] or if low-income neighbourhoods are more likely to have schools and roads constructed in proximity to one another [e.g., due to low-income residents having less influence on community decision-making]," the study says.
The study is the first of its kind to examine the proximity of schools to major roads in Canadian cities, although there has been similar research in the U.S., said Amram, who collaborated on the study with Ryan Allen, an SFU health sciences assistant professor, and colleagues from the University of B.C. In an interview, Amram said he hopes the research will persuade school officials to consider the effects of building new schools close to major thoroughfares, and might spur the provincial government to act on a report from the B.C. Environment Ministry in 2006 calling for new schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities to be at least 150 metres from busy roads.
First Net Zero School in Arizona Topped OutStaff writer, MyGreenEducation
January 05, 2012
ARIZONA: The public, replacement school is being built on Fort Huachuca, the Army’s leading intelligence training facility at 155 Carter Avenue, Fort Huachuca, Arizona 85670. The new Colonel Smith Middle School will be the first Net Zero Energy Building in Arizona and 12th in the nation. The $17M school will generate more energy than it consumes on an annual basis through its energy-efficient design, solar potable water heating, photovoltaic panels, and wind machines.
With an instructional focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), planners of Colonel Smith Middle School complex re-thought the traditional design of educational buildings. Facilities will support a project-based learning model with flexible common and collaboration spaces, and facilitate learning both indoors and outdoors. The 88,693 square foot school will accommodate approximately 350 students in grades 6, 7, and 8.
Shawn Rosenberger, General Manager of Turner Construction Company,Arizona, states, “Colonel Smith Middle School defines innovation. Not only is this one of the few Net Zero buildings in the country, the design is a total transformation from the typical classrooms where most of us went to school. Turner is proud to be a part of this stellar team and this remarkable project.”
Washington elementary school leads LED revolutionGary Chittim, KING5.com
January 05, 2012
WASHINGTON: The Everett School District flipped the switch on a technology this week that many believe will revolutionize the way we light our schools. James Monroe Elementary is believed to be the first public school to go almost entirely LED.
Light emitting diode (LED) fixtures have been around for years. LEDs own the Christmas tree and home decoration markets, but were not considered suitable for reading or lighting large areas. However, technological advances have erased most of those concerns and now schools are seeing LEDs in a whole new light. They last up to five times longer than typical Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) and require a fraction of the electricity.
Many teachers at the school say the LED light is a "warmer light," better for teaching and learning. One kindergarten teacher said she no longer needs her reading glasses in the classroom. The bulbs cost more at the front end, but administrators say they will make up for it in energy and replacement costs. Each panel of lights has an estimated 15 year lifetime and unlike CFLs they do not contain any dangerous mercury.
Feds could fund Connecticut school renovations, Congressman saysDan Brechlin , Record Journal
January 05, 2012
CONNECTICUT: n its 40-plus years of existence, Casimir Pulaski School has never received an upgrade. The windows, flooring and even thin, sliding walls in some rooms are all original. The school, like many others in the city school district, is in need of renovation. The need across the state and nation for updates combined with a lack of funds, however, has made some of the buildings even more outdated.
Renovations and updates could be on their way to the buildings should the federal American Jobs Act be passed. Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., visited Pulaski School to view conditions there so he could report his findings in Washington.
"Unfortunately, this is not a unique school," Murphy said. "There are thousands of schools around this country and state where teachers are making do, where educational miracles are happening on a daily basis, but where school improvements are long, long overdue."
With more than 700 students, Pulaski School has about 100 more pupils than any other school in the district. Based on its 69,000-square-foot size, however, the building is average-sized compared to others in the city. Makeshift classroom space was pointed out as Murphy toured the building with Board of Education member and city officials. Several corners of hallways are sectioned off for private tutoring space. Some tutoring takes place outside of classrooms, in the hallways. "Every corner of this school has to be used," said Principal Tom Brown. Extra space, however, requires money, which neither the city nor state has available to spend freely.
The proposed $447 billion jobs bill failed to receive the 60 votes necessary for passage in the Senate last year. President Barack Obama has since divided it into several parts, hoping that will make it more palatable to spending-wary lawmakers. Murphy voiced his support for the bill, which would create jobs through thousands of projects, including updating schools and roads. Under the education portion of the bill, Connecticut would receive about $185 million for projects such updating boilers, putting in new windows and making other energy-efficient improvements.
With the improvements, school districts could save thousands of dollars each year, Murphy said. The first $185 million could also lead to more money for school construction and redevelopment. "It could create 2,400 construction jobs," Murphy said.
With about half the state's construction workforce either out of work or seeing out the rough times with temporary employment, the jobs are also needed, said David Roche of the Connecticut State Building and Construction Trades Council, who also toured the school. Roche also applauded what the school has done with the space it has. "You've done so much with so little," Roche said. "You could do so much more though with some more space."
New Hampshire House supports school construction billAssociated Press, Boston Globe
January 04, 2012
NEW HAMPSHIRE: The House has given preliminary approval to changing New Hampshire's school construction aid program to a system with the state prioritizing projects. The House voted Wednesday without debate to send the bill that would create a ranking system to the Finance Committee. The goal is to target state aid to communities with the greatest need, something Democratic Gov. John Lynch has been calling for to ease the cost to the state while helping poorer communities renovate and replace schools.
Ames, Iowa Residents Chip in With Ideas for School Building PlansMiller, Jessica, AmesPatch
January 04, 2012
IOWA: There was no opposition to new schools in Ames at a forum, but many of those who took part shared what they want in facilities and how they want it done. The Ames school district's facilities committee — charged with vetting a long-range plan before a $55 million bond referendum is drafted to rebuild and renovate elementary schools — held its question and answer session at City Hall. About 25 people attended the session.
Concerned parents, property owners and former school board members said they want to ensure children had places to play during construction, buildings with safe access, community gym spaces and an improved municipal pool. Currently the district shares ownership of a pool with the city. That pool is at the high school and its nearing the end of its expected lifespan. The plan currently calls for replacing three elementary school buildings — Meeker, Edwards and Fellows — and renovating and remodeling Mitchell and Sawyer.
Some parents said they thought community gyms should be included in the renovations and including the replacement of the pool at the high school may make the bond project more acceptable to voters. Marti Steelman said more people would be in favor of the issue if all voters realize how new buildings might benefit them. “I think a bond issue would pass easier …. if they saw wow I could have an exercise program right here in my neighborhood,” she said. Betsy Carter, who once worked at Meeker, said she also wants to ensure that the best materials were used to construct buildings because students would be spending a large amount of time inside them. “They are breathing and they are in that so many hours,” Carter said. “That's a factor that sometimes we forget about.”
The location of Fellows came up briefly. Some have suggested building it on GW Carver, but the plan currently calls for rebuilding at the same location. Mary Heindel, a concerned parent, wanted to know where Fellows Elementary students would have recess while a new school is being built in the current school's back yard. “Where will they play?” Heindel asked. Heindel said her children will attend the school for the next two years. She suggested coming with a rough drawing of the proposed building site. “I really don't care where it is. I'm just trying to figure out what's best for the kids,” Heindel said.
For These Baltimore Students, It's D.I.Y. School BuildingElizabeth Evitts Dickinson, The Atlantic
January 04, 2012
MARYLAND: In a central Baltimore neighborhood that once served as a location for The Wire, a new city public school hopes to change the way school buildings are developed. The Baltimore Design School (BDS), a middle and high school with a curriculum rooted in graphic design, fashion and architecture, has taken over a 120,000 square foot factory building with plans to transform it into a high-tech center for learning by the 2012 academic year.
The structure, built in 1915, had been abandoned for decades after its last tenant, the Lebow Clothing Factory, shuttered the doors, leaving everything—racks of jackets, mammoth sewing machines, buckets of buttons and spools of thread—behind. Over the years, photos from the inside taken by adventurous trespassers captured the ghostly remains, serving as a testament to the general decay of post-industrial buildings in cities like Baltimore.
BDS, which opened in a temporary facility last fall, is one of Baltimore’s new Transformation Schools, a private-public partnership with the Baltimore City Public School system. Unlike a charter school, where the board is responsible for its own facility, a Transformation School falls under the auspice of the school system’s facility management. BDS suggested a unique scenario to the school district: partner with a private developer and turn one of Baltimore’s abandoned industrial buildings back into a productive place.
Construction began this winter on the $25 million renovation project, the result of a partnership between BDS, the school district and Seawall Development, a socially minded company that renovates historic structures in transitioning neighborhoods. The BDS board owns the building and was able to finance at a reasonable rate based on the credit rating of the city school system.
Seawall then came to the table with experience in historic tax credit financing. “With this model, the partner figures out how to make it work and we can leverage our combined resources and look for ways in which the participation of the school system allows the partner to get a better credit score,” says Baltimore City School CEO Andres Alonso. The school district will lease the building from BDS for the annual mortgage amount (a lesser capital investment than if they had to renovate themselves), and after the building is paid off, the school system will buy it back for $1 and then lease it to BDS for $1 a year.
Alonso hopes BDS will become a prototype. “We want to move away from the old fashioned model where we need to secure financing to buy or renovate through state and city funding,” he says. “That tends to be tremendously expensive for us and it means all of our dollars are tied up in one or two projects.”
The new school, designed by Baltimore architects Ziger/Snead, will include four stories of art galleries, studios, classrooms, computer labs with the latest design software and fabrication facilities. The former loading dock will become an outdoor performance space for fashion shows, while salvaged dress forms and sewing machines from the Lebow factory will become an exhibition honoring the building’s previous life.
A cyber café will provide a blank slate for architecture students to design their own space every academic year. “This school is about design thinking,” says architect Steve Ziger. “It’s about empowering students to see that they can participate in and change their environment.” Ziger says BDS hopes to become a place for training future designers as well as an anchor in the neighborhood. Alonso has high hopes for the experiment. “I look forward to the day when every school in Baltimore city has plans for the kind of renovations that BDS is doing.”
Missouri school district lauded for energy savingsKelly Evenson, The Examiner
January 04, 2012
MISSOURI: Blue Springs is working toward making its schools and facilities more energy efficient, and some of those efforts are being recognized. Will Cumberford, director of Buildings and Grounds, made a presentation on the district’s energy savings at the Blue Springs Board of Education meeting.
Over the last four years, the school district has saved more than $2.5 million in utility costs because of energy-efficient renovations made to the schools as well as the installation of newer heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units. “We have seven schools that are now Energy Star winners,” said Leslie Evans, public information director with the school district. “There are only 47 schools in the entire state that have this honor.”
The Energy Star program was introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 as a way to encourage the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through becoming more energy efficient. To receive the certification, a building must meet several energy efficiency requirements, including reducing carbon dioxide emissions and improving the overall energy efficiency through things such as improved lighting and bathroom fixtures and replacing outdated HVAC units.
U.S. Department of Education to award environmentally-friendly campusesStaff writer, Pasadena Star News
January 03, 2012
CALIFORNIA: California schools can now apply for the inaugural Green Ribbon Award, which recognizes the nation's highest-performing environmentally-friendly, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced.
"California is proud to participate in this new federal program to recognize schools with environmentally sustainable learning spaces that have boosted student performance," Torlakson said. "Not only do green schools save districts money and energy and protect the health of students and staff, but studies also show these learning spaces actually improve academic achievement."
The U.S. Department of Education unveiled the Green Ribbon Schools award in September. The program recognizes schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness, and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement. The award is part of a larger U.S. Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices proven to result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, as well as a government-wide aim to increase energy independence and economic security. Applicants will be judged on their impact on the environment and if school facilities have had a positive impact on the health and performance of students and staff and whether their students are knowledgeable on Advertisement the environment and sustainability.
Middle School Kitchen Promotes Health Inside And OutMichael Gelbwasser, Sharon Patch
January 03, 2012
MASSACHUSETTS: Sharon Middle School students now get lunch on washable trays cleaned by environmentally friendly detergent. The renovated school cafeteria strives for health in practice as well as menu, school district Food Service Director Carol Judd says. Part of the $50.5 million school renovation and addition project, the cafeteria's expanded kitchen re-opened in mid-October after six weeks of serving salads and sandwiches prepared at the Heights Elementary School, Judd says. Students now get served on heavy duty, food-safe trays that have replaced the former styrofoam ones, she says. "It cuts back on the using (of) the styrofoam trays, so it's cost effective for the department. We put them right through the dish machine," Judd said during a recent tour of the cafeteria and kitchen.
"The premise of the school is to be a green school. We wanted to follow that through in the cafeteria and in the kitchen area. The initial cost of these was probably less than what we would pay for a year's supply of styrofoam. And we should get at least two, three years' use out of the tray." And the detergent comes compacted, dissolving in the dishwasher, Judd said. The detergent previously came in plastic containers."All we're doing is we're throwing away this wrapping. That's the only garbage," she said.
The menu continues striving for the most "reimbursable meals," which Judd explained are "any meal that a student takes that has three of the five components.""We try to get the kids to take all five, because that's a balanced meal," she said.Such a meal includes milk, which comes in 8-ounce plastic containers; and fruit, which can include 4-ounce containers of 100 percent juice, she said."We'd rather see the kids take whole fruit. It's much better. But this is at least a way we encourage them to take it," Judd said.
The middle school does offer a fruit bar, "and the fruit has really come up in consumption," she said. Pre-made salads are available as well. The school also offers a deli bar, although "we gear it toward low-sodium products, (and) we give no more than 2.5 ounces per serving, which keeps the sodium down," Judd said.
Salt Lake City completes earthquake upgrades at all schoolsRosemary Winters, Salt Lake Tribune
January 03, 2012
UTAH: Mark Catmull, a counselor at Clayton Middle School in Salt Lake City, likes the natural light and unique design of his school’s new building. He also feels better knowing that his daughter, an eighth-grade student, is in a safe place if an earthquake hits.
It’s a comforting thought that parents throughout the Salt Lake City School District can share as the district wraps up an effort to make every school earthquake-resistant. Only two projects remain to be done this summer: seismic upgrades at district-sponsored charter schools Open Classroom and Salt Lake Center for Science Education.
Over the past two decades, Salt Lake City School District, which has 36 schools, has spent $401 million on the seismic upgrades, including a $70 million bond in 1993, which rebuilt East High, and a $136 million bond in 1999. Both bonds were approved by voters. Twenty schools were replaced, and 16 schools underwent retrofits. “Obviously, every child ought to be protected — not just the lucky ones in a new building,” said Salt Lake City Superintendent McKell Withers. “There are quite a few school districts along the Wasatch Front that have done what they can to mitigate some of their seismic issues in many of their buildings. But there’s nothing quite like being able to bring all of them up to the current seismic code for schools.”
Utah does not have a statewide inventory of how many school buildings meet seismic standards, which would help schools withstand a potential 7.0-magnitude quake on the Wasatch Fault. But a visual survey by engineers last year of a sample of 128 schools found that 77 appeared to fall short of federal risk standards. Thirty-six of those were rated as “high” hazard using a scoring system approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley City, has sponsored legislation the past four years to create a statewide database of the condition of every school, including seismic retrofits. But the price tag — $500,000 — has been an obstacle. Wiley said he or another legislator will run the bill again this year. The database, he said, could be used to help identify which schools need to be rebuilt first, possibly with a matching grant from the state if funds are available. “Our kids are in school for six to eight hours a day, and a lot of them are in buildings that are unsafe,” said Wiley, a former building inspector. “School buildings [also] are a primary location during a disaster. If the schools aren’t safe, where do you go?”
Many districts have completed engineering reviews of their own buildings. Canyons School District has identified $650 million in needed improvements. A $250 million bond approved by voters last year will help rebuild several of the district’s oldest buildings and renovate others. In Granite, voters approved a $256 million bond in 2009 to improve schools and rebuild Oakwood and Woodstock elementaries and Granger and Olympus high schools, some of the district’s oldest schoolhouses.
In districts like Davis that are still growing, it’s challenging to address older buildings when new schools are being added, said Brian Turner, director of architectural and construction services in the Davis district. Five years ago, an engineering study identified $115 million in needed construction to address safety issues. About a third of Davis school buildings or additions were rated as “poor” or “very poor.” Some of those have retrofitted, Turner said.
New Hampshire House voting on school construction billsAssociated Press, Boston Globe
January 02, 2012
NEW HAMPSHIRE: New Hampshire's 57-year tradition of helping pay for public school construction without limits on who gets aid would change to a system with the state prioritizing projects. The House votes this month on legislation that would create a ranking system. The goal is to target state aid to communities with the greatest need, something Democratic Gov. John Lynch has been calling for to ease the cost to the state while helping poorer communities renovate and replace schools. The ranking system would end the state's current blank-check approach to funding local aid requests. The state would instead choose projects that meet criteria to be developed by the Department of Education over the next two years. Criteria would include: unsafe conditions; obsolete, inefficient or unsuitable facilities and enrollment shifts.
Colorado school construction problems linked to Neenan Company will likely boosEric Gorski and David Olinger, Denver Post
January 01, 2012
COLORADO: Companies that want to do business through a state grant program dedicated to making school buildings safer likely will face greater scrutiny because of construction problems linked to one contractor. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton told The Denver Post he will press for more thorough reviews of companies taking part in the Building Excellent Schools Today program — which provides money to mostly rural districts to replace and fix dilapidated schools — as questions continue to mount about the Neenan Co.
"This situation is unfortunate and disappointing in that you're going to get a few circumstances of troublesome actors," Stapleton said, adding that he cannot say yet whether Neenan fits that definition"But I think overall, fundamentally, the program is a sound one."
The talk of broader oversight comes as the structural engineer on the project that first caught the attention of state regulators — an elementary school in Meeker — is defending the building as safe and well-designed. In his first interview, former Neenan engineer Gary Howell pointed a finger at local politics and supervisors who silenced his objections to an independent review that led to the school's closure"My perspective is, engineers disagree on their philosophies and there's a lot of gray areas in structural design," Howell said. "I think what we got into here was a school board being pressured by the citizens of Meeker to have a perfect building" built above code requirements. He said one criticism of his work — that the Meeker building's earthquake resistance was designed to standards for a storage shed, not a school — was simply a misprint. "The general notes were wrong," he said, but his actual calculations "used the Occupancy 3 importance factors (the school standard) for snow, wind and earthquake." Howell said he has been given no evidence that his underlying calculations were wrong. He also said there are "absolutely no drywall cracks throughout the building" in Meeker, and that the earthquake risk there "is almost nonexistent."
In Colorado, school safety is regulated by the Division of Fire Safety, an agency within the Homeland Security Division.
University of Iowa ready to reopen Steven Holl-designed Art Building West for fiStaff writer, The Gazette
January 01, 2012
IOWA: The Art Library website perhaps best expresses the collective feeling of University of Iowa School of Art and Art History faculty, staff and students who are moving back into Art Building West for the spring semester, more than three years after it was knocked out of commission by the 2008 flood.“Yippee!” the library site declares about the move back into the Steven Holl-designed building on Riverside Drive.
Numerous UI facilities reopened in the months immediately following the June 2008 flood when building repairs could be made in shorter time, including Mayflower Residence Hall, the Adler Journalism and Mass Communication Building and the English-Philosophy Building. But the reopening of Art West for spring semester marks completion of the first major campus building that was “really put out of commission” by the flood, Senior Vice President for Finance Doug True said. Movers this week stacked boxes in faculty offices and lined books on the Art Library shelves. The building will hold classes this spring semester, starting Jan. 17, for the first time since the flood. “In some ways it is bigger than a new building opening because it’s sort of an old friend and you’re meeting again, going to a class reunion,” True said. “And it is a stunning building. A lot of us have forgotten what a great building it is.”
Final cost of the Art West repair came to $14.2 million, under the $14.8 million estimate due to lower construction bids, True said. Much of that cost covered the “invisible” flood wall. The removable, 900-foot flood wall around the building is designed to be built in two to three days but can go up quicker and is based on concepts used in many European cities, True said. UI officials expect to use similar invisible flood walls to protect the Iowa Memorial Union and Iowa Advanced Technology Labs on the other side of the Iowa River. Total damage, recovery and mitigation costs at the UI from the flood could hit almost $1 billion, much of which will be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance.
The three major building replacement projects after the flood — Hancher Auditorium, the School of Music and the Studio Arts building — are all in the design phase and have been for months. It’s possible designs for those new buildings will be unveiled soon, within a few months, True said, but it’s not yet known if designs will go to the state Board of Regents for the February meeting.