NCEF News summarizes and provides links to news stories about educational facilities nationwide. Links to older articles may no longer be active.
Joplin School District seeks OK for bond issueKelsey Ryan, Joplin Globe
March 31, 2012
MISSOURI: Voters in the Joplin School District on Tuesday will decide a $62 million bond issue that officials say is needed to complete the $185 million building projects made necessary by the destruction caused by the 2011 tornado.
District officials say that in order to rebuild Joplin High School, voters must approve the bond issue, or they risk delaying the construction of a permanent high school as well as delaying the addition of storm shelters at schools throughout the district. In order to pass, the bond issue must have a four-sevenths, or 57.14 percent, majority at the polls.
But some Joplin residents, worried about the size of the bond issue, the current economy and the financial stress many families have endured since the tornado, aren’t sure whether they can afford the accompanying tax hike.
The estimated rebuilding cost for all the schools and other associated projects is $185 million. Total estimated insurance, government funding and donations now stand at a total $123 million.
Washington State Governor Signs School Construction Reform BillStaff writer, Gig Harbor Patch
March 30, 2012
WASHINGTON: The state will stop spending money building classroom space for online, out-of-district students under a bill signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire. “The state needs to focus investments on things that make sense. When the state invests in school construction, it should invest in space for students who will actually show up in the classroom,” said Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who sponsored the bill. “This is common-sense reform that will save $13 million this year alone and much more in the years ahead.”
Senate Bill 6002 is expected to save $13 million this year by addressing an issue caused by a surge in the number of students enrolled with school districts in Alternative Learning Experience programs, or A.L.E. students. In some cases, these students are essentially studying at home, under direction and with an agreement from the school. They may never show up in the district's brick-and-mortar buildings, often interacting with the instructors only online. Many actually live outside the school district’s boundaries.
Recently, the State Auditor’s Office pointed out that the state’s school construction funding formula doesn't distinguish between students who sit in classrooms and learn in laboratories and students who participate online from home. The state pays its share of construction costs as if every A.L.E. student uses the district’s buildings. SB 6002 reforms the state’s funding formula to provide construction assistance money based on the number of students physically present, and does not count A.L.E. students from other districts in that formula.
“Education is an investment that pays off for our entire state, and steps like these ensure that the state is being as effective with its limited education dollars as possible,” Kilmer said.
Harkin Bill Would Provide Billions to Hire Teachers, Fix Up SchoolsMichele McNeil , Education Week Politics K-12 Blog
March 29, 2012
NATIONAL: As the U.S. House of Representatives gets ready to approve a Republican budget for 2013 that would cut taxes and federal spending, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin is offering a countermeasure that would spend more money on things like education and workforce training, and eliminate some corporate tax breaks.
Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, is proposing a sweeping effort to "rebuild America's middle class," which contains several elements that most teachers and school districts will cheer. (Of course, given the political dynamics in Congress these days, no one should get his hopes up.)
First, his bill would provide $20 billion in formula grants to modernize, renovate, and repair early-learning facilities, K-12 schools, and community colleges.
Second, it would attempt to rebuild the ranks of public employees, which suffered when cash-strapped state and local governments had to lay off police, firefighters, and teachers in the wake of the Great Recession. His legislation would provide $60 billion total over three years to hire teachers. (That is more than the $48.6 billion State Fiscal Stablization Fund from the economic-stimulus package of 2009!)
The National Education Association is definitely a fan of the legislation overall. "Your bill will make sure students have the learning environments they need and deserve," the organization wrote in a letter today in support of Harkin's bill.
Bill to improve California school construction safety advancesKendall Taggart, California Watch
March 29, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Legislation aimed at overhauling the state's school construction law sailed through the Senate Education Committee. Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, introduced the bill, SB 1271, following a California Watch investigation and scathing state audit that found state regulators charged with overseeing school construction had failed to ensure that school buildings are safe. It now heads to the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. The bill establishes a task force that would have until Jan. 1, 2014, to consider changes in the law to better protect schoolchildren during earthquakes. Following committee recommendations, the bill was narrowed to focus the task force's activities on changes that would prohibit the use of a school building where the state has identified significant safety concerns and would implement penalties for school districts that do not provide all the required construction documents. Corbett said the bill is still a work in progress pending a public hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Earthquake and Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery, scheduled for April 20.
Representatives from California's Coalition for Adequate School Housing and the California Coalition of Professional Construction Inspectors spoke yesterday in support of the bill. In a letter to the committee, the inspectors coalition stressed that the current practice of allowing schools to use buildings that have not complied with state standards compromises the entire seismic safety program. “No other private or public permit department allows occupancy before the building is signed off as safe so why should schools be allowed this loophole?” wrote Skip Daum, on behalf of the organization. While the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, which represents school districts and construction professionals, supports the bill, it is opposed to preventing a school district from using a building that had not been signed off by the state. Steve Newsom, an architect and representative of the group, argued that schools lacking state approval was mostly a paperwork issue, not a safety issue. “To state that we shouldn’t let a school district use that school or that building I think is a very dangerous path to go down.”
A second report from the state auditor's investigation into the Division of the State Architect is due in May. The upcoming report – focused on on the agency's process of reviewing school districts' construction plans to ensure they meet code requirements – also might affect the bill.
Construction starts on Erie County's first school-based health centerDavid Bruce, Erie Times-News
March 29, 2012
PENNSYLVANIA: Jackhammering has begun in the basement of Wayne School. Construction crews are transforming nearly half of the east Erie school's basement into a medical clinic that will be open to both Wayne students and the general public. "I can't wait for this to open," Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams said. "Now that a school-based health center is going to be a reality, I look forward to seeing the impact it will have on our students."
Wayne Primary Care, is scheduled to open in mid-August. It will be Erie County's first school-based health center, a medical office located inside a school that is designed to increase health-care access for children in low-income neighborhoods. School faculty and staff, and area residents will also be able to make appointments at the health center.
Construction is being paid with a $470,470 federal grant awarded in 2011 to UPMC Hamot, which will operate the clinic with assistance from Community Health Net. Community Health Net is the county's only federally qualified health center and receives higher reimbursement than other providers for treating Medicaid patients.
Most Wayne Primary Care patients are expected to have Medicaid, said Charles "Boo" Hagerty, Hamot's chief development officer. Uninsured patients will be able to apply for Medicaid and may be eligible for Hamot's charity care program. "The office will have a basic staff: a physician who will see patients 40 hours a week, a nurse, an office manager and a receptionist," Hagerty said. "Down the road we see adding a nurse practitioner or physician assistant." Badams is excited about the health center's opening because he believes it will improve students' health, and eventually their grades.
Tampa's aging schools projects exceed budget by $288 millionRonnie Blair, Tampa Bay Online
March 29, 2012
FLORIDA: Schrader Elementary School, built 40 years ago, needs $10 million worth of renovations. Bayonet Point Middle School, right next door, needs $14.5 million. Land O' Lakes High School could use $20 million in upgrades. The list goes on. Across the county, aging school facilities in Pasco are expected to need about $1.1 billion worth of repairs and improvements over the next 12 years, school district officials say.
That leaves the school board with a problem. The district projects it will have $812 million over the same dozen years to pay for the work, leaving the district about $288 million shy. "There is going to have to be some balancing between what the projects are and what our revenue is," Chris Williams, the district's planning director, told the school board at a workshop last week.
The district's projected revenue of $812 million also comes with a caveat. That figure is dependent on voters agreeing to renew Penny for Pasco, the extra one-cent sales tax that was originally approved in a 2004 referendum, but expires at the end of 2014. The school district shares Penny for Pasco proceeds with the county commission and municipalities. The district uses its portion to build schools or renovate old ones. Without the penny tax renewal, which could be on the ballot in November, the school district would have about $250 million less to spend on its 12-year capital plan, a district report said. The planning department decided to develop a 12-year plan because a 10-year renewal of Penny for Pasco would carry through 2024. Generally, the district works from five-year facilities plans. For some schools – such as Land O' Lakes High, Schrader Elementary and Bayonet Point Middle – the needed improvements are so extensive that the district describes them as redevelopment projects. Williams likened those to the massive reconstruction projects recently completed at Pasco Middle and Pasco High in Dade City, which cost $17.4 million and $19.1 million respectively, and the $15.6 million project underway at Richey Elementary in New Port Richey. Sanders Memorial Elementary in Land O' Lake also is being renovated and new construction is planned. A proposed priority list, as opposed to a needs list, will come before the board in May as the 2012-13 budget is being prepared, said Olga Swinson, the district's chief finance officer.
New Hampshire bills would prioritize school building aidGarrett Brnger, Boston Globe
March 28, 2012
NEW HAMPSHIRE: New Hampshire lawmakers are moving ahead with a new school aid construction proposal that uses a ranking system to determine which projects get state aid. The Senate passed its plan Wednesday without debate, and the House did the same a few hours later on a similar bill. Both propose the state continue paying down its share of loans taken out to build current projects. Money would be awarded in lump sums to new projects based on criteria such as whether the school to be replaced is unsafe or too small for the student population. The two chambers differ on the scale of funding. The Senate bill leaves it to lawmakers to set the aid amount in the budget. The House bill would limit aid at $50 million per year, but most of that money would be used to pay the state's roughly $540 million share of 360 existing projects. Opponents argue that would leave only $7 million for new projects over the next few years. It will take 30 years to pay off the projects already in progress, but as the state pays the debt, more money would become available for new projects.
The bills' 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 New Hampshire while helping poorer communities renovate and replace schools. Lynch submitted a letter to the Senate Education Committee in February supporting "legislation that will establish a building aid budget, prioritize projects and increase the match available to school districts with the greatest needs." Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said the governor supports the concept proposed by the two bills. 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 such as unsafe conditions; obsolete, inefficient or unsuitable facilities; enrollment shifts; and any other conditions the state thought necessary. Lawmakers also want to be sure communities maintain buildings built partly with state aid.
Children At Risk From Pesticides, School Bans DebatedLynne Peeples, Huffington Post
March 27, 2012
CONNECTICUT: The Connecticut state legislature's ban of pesticides on elementary and middle school grounds is in effect. While child-health advocates work to corral support for a repeatedly thwarted federal bill that would extend a similar rule across the country, a lobbying blitz by lawncare industry members, with the support of some local officials who argue that a blanket ban goes too far, now threatens to undo the Connecticut law.
Using both organic strategies and synthetic chemicals is a "responsible approach utilizing the best of all worlds," says Gregory Foran, parks superintendent for the town of Glastonbury, Conn. Scientists caution, however, that many key elements of pesticides' effects on human health and development remain largely unknown. Throughout the United States, most athletic fields are likely treated with at least one of the 20,000-odd pesticides registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, according to Robyn Gilden, a professor at the University of Maryland's Environmental Health Education Center, who conducted her doctoral research on the issue.
While pesticides are by nature designed to be poisonous, different chemicals seek different living targets. Humans, especially children, are particularly vulnerable to some commonly used products, including organophosphates, which belong to the same chemical family as sarin, a nerve gas classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.
New Jersey schools go green to save greenBarbara Rothschild, Courier Post
March 27, 2012
NEW JERSEY: Energy savings continue to be the key to cost-cutting in school districts strapped for cash. One of the latest initiatives, a $300,000, three-year pilot program underwritten by the New Jersey School Boards Association, will strive to find both financial and academic benefits of greening schools once it begins this summer.
The New Jersey Sustainable Schools Project, conducted by the Mullica Hill-based Educational Information and Resource Center, is now in the planning stages. Funded through the Alliance for Competitive Energy Services — the statewide energy-buying cooperative for schools coordinated by the NJSBA and known as ACES — the project will be piloted by 20 districts across the state, including Cherry Hill, Collingswood, Medford, Swedesboro-Woolwich and Barrington in South Jersey. Funds come from energy savings through ACES, with no cost to districts. Each district has a project team made up of five members who can be teachers, board members, administrators and facilities staff. They will take part in a Green Schools Leadership Institute to kick off the program at the end of June.
Cherry Hill Superintendent Maureen Reusche said her team hopes to emerge with a green strategic plan chock full of action steps, lesson plans and resources. “It’s a commitment the district is ready to make. It will help us look at sustainability in a comprehensive manner,” Reusche said.
NJSBA Executive Director Marie Bilik said the ACES program has saved New Jersey taxpayers more than $62 million in electricity costs over the past three years, so it’s only fitting that part of that money fund a grant that will continue to contain costs while impacting curriculum in a positive way. She also said the study will look at the academic benefits of a healthier environment. “The New Jersey Sustainable Schools Project will assess the financial benefits of converting older schools to green energy, the contribution of a healthier physical environment to student achievement and the opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education that a green school can provide students,” Bilik said.
Nevada School District To Save $5 Million with Energy UpgradesSohn, Tim, THE Journal
March 27, 2012
NEVADA: A Nevada school district has turned to an energy efficiency company to save thousands of dollars in costs. Lyon County School District, based in Yerlington, NV, has signed a 15-year, $3.6 million contract with Framingham, MA-based Ameresco to make 23 buildings, comprising more than 1.2 million square feet, more energy efficient.
Overall, the upgrades to 19 schools and four administrative buildings are expected to save the district more than $345,000 a year for 15 years. New light installations alone are projected by the district to trim the maintenance budget by approximately $25,000. In addition to monetary advantages, the improvements will cut the amount of carbon dioxide by 1,928 tons annually.
The energy upgrades, which are slated to be finished by October, include: Programmable thermostats; Demand-controlled ventilation; Trash compactors; Computer power management; Vending machine controls; and Lighting systems.
Under the contract, Ameresco guaranteed there will be energy cost reductions for the life of the contract, and the school district will pay up-front costs with money saved during the contract's lifespan. The district also qualified to receive $77,000 in rebates from local gas and electric companies.
For Schoolyard Gardens, a Global NetworkTamir Elterman, New York Times
March 26, 2012
NATIONAL: There are more than 40,000 participants in the Edible Schoolyard Project, a hands-on educational effort founded in 1995 by the chef Alice Waters at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley. The program has since officially expanded to six other schools and community centers nationwide and linked up with projects in countries including New Zealand, China and Denmark. The program enlists children and adults in planting, harvesting, cooking and eating sustainable organic food, often as part of a fully integrated school curriculum. The aim is to incorporate food into education in much the way that physical education became part of the curriculum in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. The project is lauded for its role in combating childhood obesity and promoting health education over all.
This month the Edible Schoolyard Project, formerly the Chez Panisse Foundation, marks a milestone with the introduction of a social Web site that makes all the program’s resources public. The new site gathers and shares the lessons and best practices of school gardens, kitchens and lunch programs worldwide in the hope of supporting new start-up gardens around the globe. The creators hope to democratize edible education and make it accessible to all communities regardless of available resources.
New York City Will Add Seats to Schools, but Still Fall Short of DemandYasmeen Khan, New York Times
March 26, 2012
NEW YORK: The New York City Education Department plans to add 5,000 seats to its plan for city schools, but will still fall short of what is needed to reduce crowding in parts of the city. In an amendment to its capital plan, the city said it would add a total of 34,000 seats in five years, from 2010 to 2014, primarily through new building and the addition of annexes to existing sites. But the School Construction Authority estimates that city schools actually need 50,000 more seats, according to its Five Year Capital Plan for fiscal years 2010-2014.
City Council members examined the amended plan on Monday at a hearing on the Education Department’s capital budget, which covers school facilities. Council members raised concerns about various issues, including updating inadequate school bathrooms and getting more iPads in the hands of students. School capacity, however, was of top concern. Population shifts in the five boroughs have created what education officials call “pockets of overcrowding,” even though the city’s overall enrollment has hovered around 1.1 million for the past 10 years. The increasing demand has contributed to larger class sizes, waiting lists and the co-locations of more schools, council members said. “We have had two re-zonings in two years in my part of District 2,” said Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, who represents the Upper East Side. She said Public School 59 Beekman Hill International, a kindergarten through fifth grade school that opened in 2010, had a kindergarten waiting list of 41 families. “When a family who literally watched this building go up from their living room, because they live across the street, is told they can’t go there, that’s not acceptable,” Ms. Lappin said. Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, who testified on behalf of the Education Department, said city officials were constantly monitoring the issue. “We’re having this problem because we’re having more parents who are not moving to Westchester, who are staying here, who are going to our schools,” she said.
Education officials concede that the school district with the most overcrowding is District 24 in Queens, which covers several neighborhoods, including Corona, Maspeth and Elmhurst. That district has an estimated need of 7,000 new seats. The Capital Plan allocates funds to create about 5,000.
New seats financed in the Five Year Capital Plan will not necessarily be ready by June 2014, the end of that fiscal year. The School Construction Authority estimates that nearly 22,000 seats will actually become available by September 2014. So far, facilities for a bit more than 9,000 are either completed or under construction.
California Schools Recognized for Contributions to Solar EnergyGetSolar Staff, Get Solar
March 26, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Two Manhattan Beach, California, schools were recently nominated for the new federal Green Ribbon Schools Award. The Environmental Charter High School and Grand View Elementary School are the two Manhattan Beach schools nominated for the award, which recognizes schools for their green energy production in the state. The two schools join Longfellow Elementary School in Long Beach and the Athenian School in Danville as the learning institutions nominated for the award. Winners are scheduled to be announced the week of Earth Day in April and both schools are making the necessary adjustments to be most attractive to the judges.
“[Grand View] Principal [Rhonda] Steinberg and her entire school community are incredibly deserving of this award," said Ellen Rosenberg, president of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District Board of Trustees. "Grand View has developed model programs that have resulted in high energy savings, a sizable reduction in costs, and engaging curricula that provide students with hands-on lessons during which they learn how to protect the environment.”
The nominations were announced March 22 at the Environmental Charter campus in Lawndale by Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction. The Green Ribbon Award was created to recognize public and private schools that are taking comprehensive approaches to increasing California solar installation and otherwise improving the green energy use in the schools. The award is given to schools based on three criteria: environmental impact and energy efficiency; healthy school environments; and environmental and sustainability education. In order to be nominated for the award, schools were required to apply to their respective education agencies. Forty-nine schools in California applied to its department of education, which will pass on the finalists to the U.S. Department of Education. The federal agency will select approximately 100 schools nationwide to receive the award and be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in May.
According to a press release from Torlakson, all of the schools have made their marks to reduce their carbon footprints. Environmental Charter High School has won numerous environmental awards and is called a "living campus" as a result of 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables that are being raised at the school.Longfellow Elementary School has also received a significant number of awards for its green energy use, reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent with changes such as turning off all unneeded electrical equipment and lowering the thermostat. Any leftovers from lunch considered cold food like milk or fruit is donated to the local food bank so refrigerators can also be turned off by the end of the day. Grandview Elementary participates in Grades of Green Schools and Growing Great Schools, both organizations that help to reduce carbon emissions. The school reduced its lunch trash from 40 bags to two and only uses certified green cleaning products. The Athenian School has also won awards, including the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partner Recognition. The school receives 65 percent of its electrical power from an array of solar panels located near the school and 60 percent of the school's waste is recyclable content.
California led the way for solar energy in the United States last year, doubling its solar installations and remaining the nation's largest solar market.
Proposal to Expand New York University Riles a VillageMichael Kimmelman, New York Times
March 25, 2012
NEW YORK: The storm over New York University 2031, as this latest expansion proposal is called, has escalated into one of the city’s most acrimonious land-use battles. No wonder. The plan is so clearly oversize that it’s hard not to see it as a stalking horse for what school officials figure they can get permission from the city to build. The proposal envisions constructing some 2.5 million square feet (the rough equivalent of the Empire State Building) over the next 20 years on a pair of superblocks owned by the university below Washington Square Park. The blocks are now dominated by midcentury tower-in-the-park faculty residences called Washington Square Village and University Village.
Common sense and the billions of dollars that the project would cost suggest the university would be hard pressed to build half of what it’s outlining during the next decade or two. The question is which half of NYU 2031 ought to get a go-ahead, if either. The school, meanwhile, is expanding its satellite campus in Brooklyn and its medical center in Midtown. Universities in the city move their campuses from time to time. Columbia did it in the 1890s, quitting Midtown for Morningside Heights. N.Y.U.’s ultimate development may lie beyond the Village. In any case, this latest proposed expansion should not be the start of some new open-ended phase of growth in the neighborhood but the end of it.
What does N.Y.U. want? Urban universities, like hospitals, are engines of civic economies, and the best ones have to keep up with new technologies and expanding programs in a competitive marketplace: they need state-of-the-art facilities to attract top talent. The city has been banking a good part of its future on intellectual capital: Cornell’s prospective campus on Roosevelt Island, Columbia’s in Manhattanville. N.Y.U. contributes to the cultural lifeblood of the Village, adding, among other things, ethnic diversity to an area that celebrates its historic reputation as America’s bohemian capital but is increasingly home for the super rich. The school needs to upgrade and consolidate its core.
And what does the neighborhood need? Among other things, open space, green space. The debate over the development of the two superblocks has turned a fresh spotlight on the underrated urban virtues of Washington Square Village and University Village — examples of how tower-in-the-park architecture, descended from Le Corbusier and widely discredited, can benefit an old neighborhood of brownstones and low-rise loft buildings if the city is dense, healthy and vibrant enough. The task is balancing necessary development with a local ecosystem.
The most radical part of what N.Y.U. wants is to construct two tall, crescent-shaped towers, 400,000 square between them (the architecture is still notional) on the 1.5 acres of open space between the two apartment slabs of Washington Square Village. Beneath that open space, in lieu of the current parking garage, the university wants to dig several floors down to create 770,000 square feet of underground classrooms.
Joplin schools seek support for $62M bond issueAssociated Press, Statesman
March 23, 2012
MISSOURI: Tax hikes of any kind are rarely popular with voters. That's especially the case in conservative southwest Missouri. Throw in a stagnant economy, rising gas prices and the struggles of countless families still recovering from one of the deadliest single tornadoes in the country's history, and Joplin civic leaders are noticeably worried about the April 3 bond vote, which is dubbed Operation Rising Eagle for Joplin High School's mascot. "Certainly we're nervous because there's a lot at stake," Superintendent C.J. Huff said. "You just never know until Election Day what the outcome is going to be."
The tornado killed 161 people, including seven Joplin students and one employee, and damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings. The Joplin schools expect to receive nearly $86 million in insurance, and another $35.4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or its state counterpart. Another $1.7 million in donations have been set aside for rebuilding. But that still leaves a sizable gap voters will be asked to help finance. The bond issue would add $65 to the annual school district property tax on a $100,000 home. By law, it must pass with slightly more than 57 percent of the vote.
Five years ago, voters in the Joplin R-8 School District narrowly approved a $57.3 million bond issue to renovate or build three middle schools with a 59.4 percent majority. But voters rejected a similar bond measure in 2005. "It's the Show-Me State, Huff said. "Until their questions are answered, for some we won't get their votes." Huff and other school boosters hope to turn tragedy into opportunity by not just replacing what was lost but using the new physical spaces to embrace innovative educational approaches. Plans include building a combined high school and vocational school near the former site of both schools, which were among six completely destroyed by the tornado. A new elementary school would be built on donated land near the former site of a hospital destroyed by the storm. "This is a tremendous opportunity for us as a district," he said. "You just don't get the opportunity to recreate a vision for teaching and learning like we have now, and build projects around it."
Joplin High School seniors and juniors are temporarily taking classes in a converted big-box store at the city's only shopping mall, while freshmen and sophomores are in a building across town.
LEARNING BY DESIGN Announces Education Design Award Recipients In Spring 2012 EditionPress release, Stratton Publishing
March 23, 2012
NATIONAL: LEARNING BY DESIGN has released its much-anticipated Spring 2012 edition, which showcases the nation’s best education design and construction projects, from pre-K to 12 to college and university facilities. Of all of the outstanding design projects chosen for publication in LEARNING BY DESIGN’s Spring 2012 issue, 14 were selected for Grand Prize, Citation of Excellence, Honorable Mention, or Publisher’s Commendation Awards. This year, three Grand Prize Awards were selected: DLR Group for Marysville Getchell Campus; NAC|Architecture (Seattle, WA) for Machias Elementary School; and SHW Group (Houston, TX) for Gloria Marshall Elementary School.
A distinguished jury of architects and school/university leaders reviewed and selected the outstanding projects that appear in the Spring 2012 edition and named this year’s honorees. The judges noted that the three projects honored with Grand Prize Awards, while very different in terms of size, location, and student population, share an innovative design approach that prioritizes transparency within a school building to create connectivity among the students, teachers, and community. The three Grand Award- winning educational facilities provide a variety of breakout spaces to inspire students to think differently and achieve more.
Going green a hit at Des Moines schoolsAndrea Melendez, Des Moines Register
March 23, 2012
IOWA: Efforts to make Des Moines schools more energy-efficient in the past three years have resulted in $1.7 million in savings, an amount equal to the salary of roughly 47 first-year teachers, district officials said. Under a 10-year “Students First” plan, the district has used money collected through the statewide 1-cent sales tax to upgrade school buildings’ heating and cooling systems, replacing many with geothermal systems. Officials updated lighting systems, windows and doors in more than half of Des Moines’ 65 schools. In addition, the district has set standard temperatures for all buildings, which vary depending on the type of school. Elementary schools are kept warmer than high schools, for example. Also, some staff have done away with personal microwaves, refrigerators and coffee pots.
Officials are also in the beginning stages of a push to do away with personal printers for teachers and others and to reduce paper usage, said Bill Good, chief operating officer for the district. The result has been an overall annual savings of nearly $600,000, money from the general fund that can now be used for other expenses.Schools have seen a 40 percent savings on their utility bills, Good said. Those savings are despite an increase of air-conditioned schools. Fifty-eight percent of schools were air-conditioned prior to the district’s efforts, compared with the current 92 percent. “We’ve been hitting it hard because we’ve been in such dire straits with the budget,” Good said. “We had no choice. It was a necessity because we had people losing their jobs.”
The district’s efforts have earned it numerous awards, including the most recent, in which it was named 2012 Energy Star Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency typically selects one to two education entities for the award each year. The district is part of the organization’s Energy Star program, which provides energy management strategies that mirror the steps taken by Des Moines. In Des Moines, 43 schools are Energy Star-rated, with four others expected to be added to the list by the end of the school year, district officials said.
USGBC Launches the Green Classroom Professional CertificateStaff writer, environmental design+construction
March 22, 2012
NATIONAL: The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released the Green Classroom Professional Certificate (GCP). This certificate program provides pre-K-12 teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and parents with the knowledge and skills to support environmentally healthy, resource efficient and sustainable schools and classrooms. The GCP has been officially endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA).
"It goes without saying that teachers, principals and of course parents always have our children's best interests at heart. But in many cases our educators and caretakers don't have the information and education to diagnose environmental and health challenges in the classroom and implement practical solutions," said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. "The Green Classroom Professional Certificate aims to empower educators and decision makers to dramatically improve the learning environment, increasing comfort, health and performance for students and teachers alike."
Educators with a Green Classroom Professional Certificate are engaged with the green building community; have learned about school energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction and improved indoor air quality; and work to provide the best environment for student success. With the skills gained from the program, teachers will help foster an attitude among youth and future generations to appreciate and model green practices.
"The National Education Association is proud to endorse this exciting program, which creates an opportunity for educators to learn about sustainability and implement real change in their classrooms," said Jerald Newberry, Executive Director, NEA Health Information Network. "We recognize that teachers operate best when working in a healthy, sustainable environment, and the Green Classroom Professional Certificate equips educators with the skills to begin making changes in their own classrooms ... changes that foster student well-being and success, while making it easier for them to teach."
The GCP program guides participants through 12 modules covering key topics on classroom health. Modules focus on topics such as indoor air quality, water efficiency, materials and resources. Once the modules are completed, the final assessment is made up of animated and narrated scenarios, along with multiple-choice questions, guiding teachers through possible examples they may encounter in their classroom. The online course takes 2-3 hours to complete, and certification is valid for five years. The course will be available at a promotional cost of $75 until April 1, 2012 and includes the modules and the assessment. For more information on the GCP, please visit centerforgreenschools.org/greenclassroom.
Money for University of Iowa arts campus OK'dEmily Schettler, Des Moines Register
March 21, 2012
IOWA: Members of the Iowa Board of Regents saw firsthand the sites for several new buildings under design on the University of Iowa’s fine arts campus. After the tour, the regents approved more than $404 million worth of new construction for the U of I’s fine arts campus. They also approved schematic designs for a new Hancher Auditorium, Art Building and School of Music replacement. Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, will cover about 65 percent of the replacement costs.
West Virginia school supers seek $170 million for building projectsAmy Julia Harris, Charleston Gazette
March 21, 2012
WEST VIRGINIA: School superintendents throughout West Virginia asked the state School Building Authority for more than $170 million to build new classrooms and renovate crumbling public schools. The SBA considered building proposals from 23 counties jockeying for a portion of the $40 million the SBA will award in a meeting next month.
Frank Blackwell, superintendent of Wyoming County schools, was among the dozens of superintendents who approached the SBA. He asked for about $7.6 million in state funds to build a new school to replace flood-prone Huff Consolidated Elementary School in the state's southern coalfields. Blackwell said Huff Elementary, squarely in Wyoming County's flood plain, has been flooded twice in the last three years. "The question is not if the school will be flooded again, but when," said Blackwell. He said the elementary school was stripped and remodeled after being flooded in 2009 and 2010, but the water seriously damaged the foundation on the southwest side of the school and has deteriorated the masonry walls.
Authority President Mark Manchin said deciding which schools to fund is always an issue, particularly during this and next year's funding cycle, which he called "extremely lean." "There's nearly $2 billion worth of needs in West Virginia schools' 10-year plans for facilities alone," said Manchin. "The SBA can only identify about $800 million of that. Needless to say, there are certainly not enough funds to address all the needs out there. But we'll do our best to give money to the schools that need it and look at alternative funding plans."
Kanawha County school officials will present their request for more than $2 million in state funds to add six classrooms and renovate the food service area at Andrews Heights Elementary School. The SBA denied Kanawha County's request for $1 million in December to build four classrooms at John Adams Middle School. Putnam County did not ask for any money for grants during this funding cycle after being awarded $1 million in funds and receiving a $1.5 million bond in December to build seven new classrooms, restrooms and a sprinkler system at Conner Street Elementary School.
On Monday, the SBA approved a bond sale of $57 million over the next two years to help finance school construction projects. The SBA will award about $40 million at their April 23 meeting and $40 million in 2013.
Study Finds Correlation Between Green Schools and Academic SuccessWilson, Eric, 2nd Green Revolution
March 21, 2012
NATIONAL: A team of researchers at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD) found a small positive correlation between academic success at schools that employ environmentally conscious practices. These practices are based on a set of core beliefs that have been devised by the Green School National Network (GSNN). The research consisted of a survey sent to more than 350 primary and secondary schools that self identified as “green.” Funded jointly be the GSNN and UCD, the study looked at the five GreenPrint core practices (as set forth by GSNN). The principles are as follows: Curriculum that advances environmental literacy and sustainability; Stewardship and service learning; Sustainable facilities design and management; Health and well being; Strong partnerships and networks.
The research team, comprised of Assistant Professor Bryan Wee, and two of his students Hillary Mason and Jason Abdilla, received responses from more than 100 schools implementing the GSNN core practices. While the researchers point out that the responses represent the perception of how well the schools follow the principles, the university’s press release points out “The results of the survey suggest that as schools implement GreenPrint core practices at higher levels, student achievement in science tends to show improvement.”
California schools that responded to the survey showed the greatest positive correlation (more than 0.9, with one being the highest). However, it is unclear from this study just how much of a role the core practices play given the number of variables at play. In an interview with 9 News, Wee made the case for further research to help solidify the connection between the green schools and improved test scores.
Geothermal at Ball State a green successRick Yencer, Muncie Free Press
March 20, 2012
INDIANA: Physicist Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute was on the Ball State University campus 30 years ago when coal-fired boiler belched black smoke into the Muncie sky. On Tuesday, Lovins was back helping dedicate the first part of the country's biggest geothermal heating and cooling system that the university will use and replace those coal-fired boilers that are non-renewable energy power that Lovins says has to be replaced by wind, solar, geothermal or other renewable energy. More than 350 people including students, faculty, board of trustees, contractors and others interested in renewable energy joined the celebration in the $45 million improvement with another project already underway to make the campus totally geothermal.
The achievement is just "another bold day at the office," said Gora, who lauded the commitment to the environment besides the economic impact the project has for Hoosier companies."Ball State is a place where ideas are transformed into action," she added. More than 50 firms and 2,300 jobs are created by the multi-million energy project that will heat and cool 47 buildings and save about $2 million in energy costs. And the university's carbon footprint is cut in half.
San Mateo at the center of school-renovation boomAaron Kinney, Contra Costa Times
March 19, 2012
CALIFORNIA: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act may be winding down, but there's another economic stimulus taking place in and around San Mateo, where two school districts are spending hundreds of millions of dollars overhauling their facilities. The San Mateo Union High School District and San Mateo-Foster City elementary district are engaged in a building and renovation frenzy fueled by voter-approved bonds. Similar activity is occurring throughout the county and elsewhere around the Bay Area, as districts seek to make their schools safe, technologically up-to-date and more energy-efficient.
Nowhere is the mid-Peninsula boom more evident than at San Bruno's Capuchino High School, which is undergoing an overhaul of around $45 million. The gyms and theaters are being refurbished, and workers are putting the finishing touches on a new building with 24 classrooms and two computer labs.
The money is coming from Measure M, a $298 million bond measure passed by voters in 2006. Measure D, a previous bond, paid for an earlier set of upgrades at Capuchino in the 2000s. By the time this latest project is completed in 2013, every building of the Spanish-style school will have been revamped.
"The school, inside and outside, has gone through a major transformation -- every corner of the school," said Assistant Principal Margarita Navarro. Each high school in the district is being renovated thanks to Measure M except for Peninsula, the district's continuation school. A newer bond measure -- the $186 million Measure O, passed in 2010 -- will pay for that.
District officials say the bonds were needed not because of state budget cuts but because of aging facilities, many of which were built more than 50 years ago. The schools required basic physical improvements, but they also needed to be made into places where students can learn the skills they'll need to thrive in a technology-driven world. Hence the robotics lab at Aragon High School, the green-tech classroom at Hillsdale and the animation studio at Capuchino.
"We're transforming the schools into 21st-century learning places," said district Superintendent Scott Laurence. "When I was growing up, it was woodworking and auto shop and things like that. We continue to offer students those things, but we also have to give them the tools related to what's going on around them now."
Other Peninsula districts are pursuing the same goal. County voters approved more than $700 million in bonds since 2008 for schools' capital improvements. That includes San Mateo-Foster City's $175 million Measure L, which is funding major upgrades at Baywood Elementary and other schools.
And the construction boom is not limited to San Mateo County. In Santa Clara County, the Campbell Union School District just finished projects at Blackford Elementary School and Rolling Hills Middle School, using money from $150 million Measure G, and will construct new multiuse buildings at eight elementary schools over the next several years. And in the East Bay, Emery Unified School District will spend $80 million of the $95 million Measure J to expand Emery Secondary School into the K-12 Emeryville Center of Community Life. Besides paying for new buildings, the money is putting people to work in the midst of a poor economy.
Greystone West Co., managing the Measure M projects, estimates the work has employed an average of 110 trades workers over the past five years. The San Mateo County Community College District calculates that its $468 million Measure A, approved in 2005 and just now finishing up, created about 3,000 jobs.
School Construction's Back in New HavenMelissa Bailey, New Haven Independent
March 19, 2012
CONNECTICUT: After a two-year hiatus, Mayor John DeStefano is asking the city to borrow $42.3 million for three new projects next year: renovating New Haven Academy, adding Hyde magnet school onto Hillhouse High, and rebuilding the Helene Grant as centralized pre-K hub. DeStefano made those proposals in the capital projects section of his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Aldermen have the final say on the package, which they’re hashing out in a series of public hearings over the next two-and-a-half months.
The three projects represent an unfreezing of the mayor’s $1.5 billion school construction initiative, according to Will Clark, the Board of Education’s chief operating officer. The initiative, which began in 1998, used state money to rebuild or renovate nearly every public school in New Haven’s district. Construction never stopped. It continues every week at East Rock Magnet School and Hill Central Museum Academy. But in tough budget times, the city declined to add any new projects to the past two years, Clark said. The three projects were put on ice during those years. Now the city has come up with new versions of the proposals, in some cases scaled down from prior plans. If local and state approvals fall into place, construction could begin on the three projects in June of 2013, he said. The projects are outlined in the city’s revised master plan for school construction, which was released earlier this month.
USGBC Looks To Refine the Green Classroom ConceptBridget McCrea, THE Journal
March 19, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Intent on increasing the number of green classrooms in California's K-12 schools the Orange County chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is retrofitting a Costa Mesa classroom that it hopes will serve as a model for a more widespread, national effort.
The Davis Magnet School classroom will be gutted, insulated, and equipped with high-performance lighting that "harvests" daylight, environmentally friendly flooring and furnishings, wireless submeters (for monitoring utility usage), and a new ventilation system. All paints and finishes used during the process will have high recyclable contents and low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Wendy Rogers, chair of the USGBC's green school committee and a design principal at integrated design firm LPA Inc. in Irvine, CA, said the retrofit is being funded through in-kind donations. "So far we've had very good support from the contractor and business community in the area," said Rogers. "We're pretty optimistic about the project based on the number of people who have told us that they want to get involved with it."
Rogers said she hopes the classroom retrofit will raise awareness of the value of environmentally friendly classrooms in a county where just seven schools in 38 total public school districts are considered green. "That's pretty good, but we know that we can do better," said Rogers. "We want this model to demonstrate energy savings and sustainability in a way that makes other school districts get involved with similar projects."
Green Education Foundation (GEF) Launches New WebsitePress Release, Green Education Foundation
March 16, 2012
NATIONAL: Green Education Foundation (GEF) has launched a new website to showcase its sustainability education programs, curricular resources and tools, and professional development opportunities. GEF, a non-profit organization committed to creating a sustainable future through education, was established in 2008. With the release of its new and improved website, the organization reaffirms its resounding leadership in sustainability education in the global marketplace.
Victoria Waters, CEO of GEF, shared her enthusiasm about the new website and what it means for the organization’s future: “With the enhanced capabilities of GEF’s new website we are more excited than ever to share our high quality sustainability education with the world using a first-class platform. We are confident that this site will provide an even more engaging user experience as well as match the exceptional design and delivery quality of our new online courses.”
In April, GEF Institute, a division of GEF, will launch two new online sustainability courses for educators, students, and adults. These courses are part of its Sustainability Concepts Certification, a new offering that meets the market demand for certification opportunities in sustainability. Building on the overwhelming success of its 2011 pilot course, Sustainability Education Concepts and Teaching Methods, the courses will feature similar delivery methods and content quality. One of the most innovative features of these courses are the video narrations interspersed throughout the text, creating a unique and engaging learning experience. Other features include pre and post unit assessments, lively discussion forums, and application based activities. The Institute is offering early bird enrollment through March 20. Visit www.greeneducationfoundation.org/institute to learn more or enroll.
GEF is best known for free sustainability programs for grades K-12 that teach the important principles of sustainability while incorporating hands on activities, contests, and STEM based lessons. National Green Week, the organization’s flagship program, kicked off its fourth year on February 6. National Green Week is the nation’s largest waste reduction campaign for schools and calls on students, faculty, and staff to implement strategies to reduce waste for at least one week. By measuring waste generated before and after green week, students are able to see the power of collective action. Schools can choose any week between February 6 and Earth Day, April 22 to be their green week. For more information or to enroll for free, visit www.greeneducationfoundation.org/nationalgreenweeksub.
University of Iowa arts facilities expected to cost $405 millionEmily Schettler, Iowa City Press-Citizen
March 16, 2012
IOWA: The cost of replacing the University of Iowa’s fine arts campus, which was devastated by the 2008 flood, is pegged at $404.9 million, according to information released Thursday by the Iowa Board of Regents. The price tag for a new Hancher Auditorium, art building and music facility is about 5 percent higher than the preliminary estimate of $386 million. The total damage to the U of I campus from the 2008 flood is expected to top $1 billion.
Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, nearly $267 million, should cover about 65 percent of the replacement costs for the three fine arts buildings. In addition to the FEMA money, the projects will be paid for with flood insurance proceeds, revenue bond proceeds, university gifts and earnings, and university building renewal funds.
California's public universities plow ahead with billions in construction despite tight budgetsJon Marcus, Hechinger Report
March 15, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Construction cranes sprout from the campus of the University of California at San Diego like towering palm trees in the Southern California sun. There’s a new engineering building under construction, and a new addition to the school of management. A new office building is now open, along with a new parking garage, biomedical research and marine labs, cardiovascular center, $400 million student apartment and dining complex, and $55 million music center. Construction on new clinical-research and biological and physical-sciences buildings is scheduled to start next year. In all, $2 billion worth of new facilities are in the planning, design or construction stages at UCSD. The broader University of California system has more than 200 projects under way at its 10 campuses and five medical centers, together valued at $8.9 billion. “The cement never dries on a UC campus,” one faculty member observed wryly.
All of these new buildings seem an odd contradiction in a state that has cut billions of dollars in operating costs from its public universities, which have responded by reducing enrollment, dramatically increasing tuition and laying off employees. But it’s part of a nationwide building boom at universities that shows no signs of abating—despite budget shortfalls, endowment declines and seemingly stretched resources. America’s universities and colleges have spent more than $11 billion on new facilities in each of the last two years—the depths of the economic downturn—which is more than double what they spent in 2000, according to the market-research firm McGraw-Hill Construction.
“What you’ve seen in California you’ll see in other places, too,” said Mary Vosevich, director of physical plant at the University of New Mexico and president-elect of APPA, previously known as the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, whose members oversee campus buildings and grounds.
Critics are seeing it, and they’re not happy. While they say some construction is justified—at jam-packed community colleges, for instance, where enrollment is increasing—these observers contend that many new buildings are going up on campuses because financial donors want their names immortalized, university presidents like to leave legacies of brick and mortar, and admissions directors are battling for applicants they’re convinced are lured by shiny new amenities. “You can go into any community and talk to somebody whose son or daughter either can’t get in or can’t finish [college] because they can’t get this or that course,” said David Wolf, cofounder of The Campaign for College Opportunity, which lobbies for higher education in California. “Meanwhile, they go on campus and there’s all that fresh cement. That’s embarrassing, and it’s wrong.”
University officials say that, in addition to private donations, some campus buildings are paid for by government research grants and student fees. More importantly, they say, the money for construction—often raised through taxpayer-approved bonds—is kept in strictly separate capital, not operating, accounts. “It’s a common misperception,” said Steve Springer, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Community College District, which halted $5.7 billion in construction projects—80 new buildings on its nine campuses—after the Los Angeles Times exposed waste and mismanagement. “People say, instead of putting the money into all these buildings, put it into hiring more faculty or increasing enrollment. But it’s different money.”
Not entirely, said David Kline, spokesman for the California Taxpayers Association. Construction costs are ultimately bankrolled by taxpayers, Kline said. California’s public universities and colleges, for example, are now paying a staggering $1.1 billion a year in interest on those construction bonds, more than double the amount paid a decade ago, the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office reports. “People discuss bond money as if it’s free money that isn’t coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets, and that’s exactly where it is coming from,” Kline said.
Once the keys are turned over, the universities also have to clean, heat, light, cool, and maintain these new buildings, the burden of which comes out of hard-pressed operating budgets. Students help pay for the construction spree through escalating fees for things like new dorms and gyms, said Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “The notion that this is somehow being financed in some way that is not costing students or taxpayers money is disingenuous to the extreme,” Vedder said. “The universities seem to treat this like a birthday gift or something. But there is a pain associated with the maintenance of these new buildings.”
First-rate school now has the facilities to matchLaura Stetser, Shore News
March 14, 2012
NEW JERSEY: Quality facilities are of the utmost importance to a school district, according to Mainland Regional High School Board of Education President John Medica, who said he was proud that the school’s structure finally matches the level of education students are getting within its walls.
“When you go to school as a student or work at a school as a teacher, the environment matters,” he said. After years of budgets being defeated and bond referendums denied by the community, the board finally was able to obtain the approval to fund the first major renovation in the school’s 50-year history.
In 2000, a science wing was added and other classrooms were repurposed. The library was built on top of a once-open quad. “We got rid of an antiquated facility and replaced it with very useful labs,” Medica said. The new science wing also provided for ample teacher planning spaces. The aquatic center was built in 2004. That year more classrooms were also added. In 2009 through this year, other building modifications were made, including a new roof, a renovated entrance, solar panels, refurbished bathrooms and locker rooms, he said. The main office and guidance and child study team offices were also renovated, and additional classrooms were added. The athletic spaces have been updated as well, with the addition of stadium lights, aluminum bleachers, and an all-weather track.
“The student body has become so much more advanced in their abilities and needs that we need to enough space to educate them properly,” Medica said. He said having an up-to-date building also helps in attracting and retaining high-quality teachers and staff members. He said the resistance from the community was difficult during the years they weren’t able to get the money for the work. “We have only had one budget approved in the past 10 years,” he said. “We have to work much harder with every dollar we have.” He said the public ended up getting a good deal, as the renovations came at a good price in today’s marketplace, with lower interest rates and cheaper material costs. “They made a smart move in waiting,” he said. The spruced-up building brings all of the parts that make up the school into alignment, Medica said. “Today we have a first-rate student body, a first-rate faculty and a first-rate facility.”
DeKalb school board buys more time on school construction problemTy Tagami, Atlanta Journal Constitution
March 13, 2012
GEORGIA: he DeKalb County School Board voted Monday night to buy a little more time on tough budget-cutting decisions involving the school construction fund.More than $30 million in school improvement work may be stopped because of a newly-discovered budget shortfall.
The projects were at the end of a five year sales tax-funded construction program that expires this summer. The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that began in 2007 was to generate $513 million, but, because of accounting oversights discovered recently, will actually come to around $508 million. That's only a small part of the problem.
The biggest problem: no one set aside money to cover $21 million in bond debt interest payments that will soon be coming due. Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson proposed scuttling three dozen projects at scores of schools to cover that deficit and to pay for another problem -- a $10 million overrun in projected costs for a new Chamblee High School. Previously, Atkinson was asking to kill the projects, but late into a caustic debate Monday, she offered a temporary compromise: give her time to find out which of them she can legally move into the next tax-building program. She hopes to free up $11 million over the next five years by issuing no bonds with the next sales tax, which begins this summer. Money that would have gone toward interest payments could conceivably go to the unfunded projects, she announced. The projects that are in jeopardy include upgrades for the disabled, air conditioning systems, new toilets and numerous other small projects. There is also work at several high schools that could stop.
Build Schools For Today's LearnersMargaret Sullivan, CBP Articles
March 13, 2012
National: The early 21st century is an exhilarating, yet demanding, time in education. Student learning is evolving from memorization and the passive transfer of information from teacher to students to collaboration, active learning, and mentoring, with a focus on problem solving, critical-thinking skills, and personalized instruction. Technology tools; social media; and the recognition that the dated, industrial-learning model is leaving American students at an international disadvantage are changing our approach to learning.
School construction costs stay high in North CarolinaMorgan Josey Glover, News & Record
March 13, 2012
NORTH CAROLINA: his month, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction finally posted an updated list of new school construction in the state, after a six-month hiatus. View the list here by clicking on "construction costs" on the left and then "cost of recent N.C. school projects." The spreadsheet so far lists six projects for 2011, with an average cost of $153 per square foot. So far, that's $13 per square foot higher than the previous year. The outlier for 2011 is the $61.4 million Rolesville High School in Wake County; it came in at almost $175 per square foot.
Notice that the lowest average square foot cost was $128 back in 2009. Construction has definitely slowed down over the past two years. The spreadsheet gives you a pretty good idea of how much North Carolina districts are paying to build new schools, but the data isn't perfect and you have to account for some variables (i.e. will the school house mostly students with disabilities or a technical program?). For example, the list doesn't yet include the completed Haynes Inman Education Center in Jamestown.
Groundbreaking green school prepares for groundbreaking green buildingJudi Meighan, MyCentralJersey
March 12, 2012
NEW JERSEY: The Willow School will give new meaning to the phrase "groundbreaking" when it commences building its new Health, Wellness and Nutrition Center this year. When finished, it will be the first time in the country that a building of such a large size (almost 20,000 square feet), with a full commercial kitchen, will meet the standards of both the USGBC LEED Platinum Standards and the Cascadia Living Building challenge.
"This is about more than just sustainability, it's about regeneration; about how a building can actually give back more than it depletes," said Kate Burke Walsh, The Head of School at Willow. She explained that when the Health, Wellness and Nutrition Center is complete it will produce more energy than it uses, harvest more water than it consumes, and generate no waste that is not used for other processes. "We're very excited about this building. It will help us to accommodate the growing number of students that we have, and attract new students," said Ms. Walsh. "The focus on health, wellness and nutrition is a natural extension of our commitment to educating the whole child. We teach wellness in terms of well-being and incorporate our gardening program to help children understand the importance of place, to preserve and even better, to regenerate our natural environment. "
Classroom doors opened safely to students after very concerning structural condition in NewmarketAndrea Bulfinch, Foster's Daily Democrat
March 12, 2012
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Reopened for the first time in seven weeks, classroom 106 of Newmarket Junior Senior High School welcomed students and teachers to class this past week without the threat of the ceiling falling onto students heads. On Friday, principal Chris Andriski and assistant principal Dave Williams gave Foster's a tour of the portion of the school affected by structural concerns discovered after a ceiling tile was noticed sagging in early January by a custodian as he made his routine classroom checks. What was found after that, caused a handful of classrooms to be shut down by the state fire marshal while crews worked to address the issues with new and safer construction in those areas. Since then, courses have been held in the gymnasium and cafeteria to accommodate students uninterrupted education. Every student in the school, Andriski said, uses each of the classrooms affected. In addition to room 106, the classroom for math, rooms 100, the French room and 101, the art room, were the first to be closed on January 20, following an inspection by structural engineers midmonth.
When plaster was found to be pulling away from the ceiling in that first room, a structural engineer was brought in who determined the situation to be unsafe. In addition to the plaster crumbling and its own weight dragging it down, electrical wires were found, some live, and the ceiling in the boy's bathroom was cracked in half. In some places of the ceiling, the lattice work was supported by the sprinkler system. And where construction is still being completed, an open portion of the ceiling near the senior hallway, an area between classrooms 102, 103, 104, 105, all shut down during this process, reveals the horsehair plaster ceiling from the 1920s construction nailed to support beams where a suspended ceiling was later added and nailed to the plaster.
Schoolhouse: Rosenwald Schools In The SouthNPR Staff, NPR News
March 11, 2012
NATIONAL: Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington came from vastly different backgrounds. Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., was one of the richest men in America; Washington rose out of slavery to become a civil rights leader. But their meeting led eventually to the construction of thousands of schools for black children in the segregated South. Stephanie Deutsch tells the story of their friendship in her new book You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South.
When Rosenwald decided to start giving his money away, he started within the Jewish community — funding schools and hospitals. But Deutsch tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, that a 1908 race riot in Rosenwald's hometown of Springfield, Ill., made him think twice about the treatment of African-Americans in the United States. "In one of his speeches, he said, 'We like to look down on the Russians because of the way they treat the Jews, and yet we turn around, and the way we treat our African-Americans is not much better,'" Deutsch says.
After they met, Washington suggested to Rosenwald the idea of constructing the new schools, Deutsch says. "His big belief was that education was the building block on which people would build better lives and stronger lives," she says. Beyond serving students, the schools became civic centers for the communities they served. Deutsch says they were built to be flexible. "At a time when blacks were excluded from public libraries, public playgrounds, and many other public facilities, the Rosenwald school was really theirs," she says. Building the schools was a joint effort. "The idea of partnering with the community was very much in keeping with Rosenwald's thinking," Deutsch says. Many of the communities served by the schoolhouses were already trying to get schools for their children, she says. So, they often contributed labor and materials.
Deutsch says when segregation ended, the consolidated school was usually placed in the formerly whites-only building. She says many of the schools were boarded up or left to fall apart. One even became the county dump. But Deutsch says there has been interest in recent years in renovating and restoring the schools. "Alumni are looking at their schools and saying, I want to preserve that school that was such an important part of my life," Deutsch says.
Editorial: End Colorado's all-in-one school building dealsEditorial staff, Denver Post
March 11, 2012
COLORADO: The trail of school construction deficiencies that the Neenan Co. has left in its wake is unfortunate for many reasons. Chief among them is that the errors could have been caught had school districts made a key decision at the front end. These districts, many of them rural and lacking personnel who are well-versed in construction, should have made it a point to give one piece of the plan-design-build-oversight process to an entity other than Neenan. In saying that, we don't mean to disparage Neenan, which has stepped up to fix its errors. And we understand the enormous financial hurdles these districts faced in finding affordable bids and getting bond issues approved. But just as these districts wouldn't let schoolchildren write their own report cards, they shouldn't have allowed Neenan to control every facet of the process.
Going forward, we hope other districts will take from the episode the absolute necessity to have appropriately sophisticated checks and balances. Since November, Denver Post staff writers Eric Gorski and David Olinger have written stories about problems found at schools built by Neenan. It started with Meeker Elementary, an $18.9 million building that was shuttered after a year for repairs. Engineers found the school had been designed to standards required for storage sheds and could collapse in severe weather. Neenan acknowledged the mistakes and agreed to pay for repairs. Alarmed at the discovery, Colorado officials asked for reviews of engineering at every Neenan-built school that received money through the state's Building Excellent Schools Today program.
,br> Problems of varying severity were discovered in all 15 school projects. Again, to its credit, Neenan agreed to arrange and pay for reviews of its school projects. The company also is paying for fixes at those schools. On Friday, David Neenan, founder of the company that bears his name, visited with the Post editorial board to explain the circumstances that led to problems. In hindsight, he said the company erred in "overintegrating" the processes of initial design, planning and zoning, construction drawings and structural engineering. Neenan called it a "low-cost, high-risk" strategy. Since the revelations of building problems, the company has begun hiring out its structural engineering work and having it peer reviewed. Those are wise moves. We also think school districts would do well to maintain independent oversight over the construction projects they labored so hard to get. We realize that these all-in-one deals can seem very attractive and provide answers to many thorny questions. But as the adage goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Ohio school district funded buildings without a local levyVirginia Shank, Tribune Chronicle
March 11, 2012
OHIO: State officials have lauded Steubenville's city school district for its fiscal savvy. The school district completed its $32 million Building Excellent Schools for Tomorrow Project without going to the tax payers for a school levy. The project was funded through the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which covered 77 percent, and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds - interest-free qualified government academy bonds - as well as a $1 million donation from the Charles M. and Thelma M. Pugliese Foundation and donations from community members.
Five years ago school officials in this Jefferson County district set out to modernize their school buildings. Through the project, the school district reduced its school buildings from eight to five. A new elementary school was built, and renovations and modernizations were made at the former Garfield Elementary School and the high school downtown. A few years earlier, Warren also was planning to downsize and improve its buildings through a construction project in partnership with OSFC - but at cost to taxpayers. Warren taxpayers in 2003 approved the district's request for a 5.5-mill bond issue, plus an additional mill for permanent improvements and maintenance, and started paying on the 28-year debt in 2004. Under the funding agreement, the OSFC footed 81 percent of the district's $132 million construction project, about $105 million, leaving Warren to raise the remaining 19 percent, or $26.6 million.
Bond refinancing saves Nashua $1.9 million on high school constructionMaryalice Gill, Nashua Telegraph
March 10, 2012
NEW HAMPSHIRE: The city will save almost $2 million on the bonds that paid for building the North and South high schools eight years ago, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau announced. In February, aldermen approved Lozeau’s request to enable city Treasurer David Fredette to find bonds on the market at lower interest rates to refinance outstanding bonds that had funded the two school construction projects. The bonds were originally issued on March 15, 2004.
The city received competitive bids from bond underwriters last Wednesday for a $20,840,000 12-year refunding bond issue, Lozeau said. The refinancing will generate total savings of approximately $1,919,200. The city received 9 bids on the bonds, Lozeau said, and TD Securities purchased the bonds at an average interest rate of 2.04 percent.
In 1999, the city approved $143 million in bonds to completely renovate Nashua High School, which became Nashua High School South, and to build a second high school, now Nashua High School North. After studying market conditions and the bonds that could be recalled, Fredette found in February that $23 million of the $143 million in high school bonds could be refinanced, he said, though aldermen had approved refinancing up to $30 million. Prior to the sale, Fitch Ratings, a municipal bond credit rating agency, affirmed the city’s AAA underlying bond rating. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Group also affirmed the city’s AA+ underlying bond rating. Strong bond ratings allow the city to sell bonds and borrow at reduced rates.
Federal bond would help fund improvements to all 10 Bangor schoolsAndrew Neff, Bangor Daily News
March 09, 2012
MAINE: Just how far will $2.8 million go these days? According to the Bangor School Department, it will pay for 55 needed projects at all 10 schools. The Bangor City Council’s finance committee on Tuesday approved a Bangor School Department request to issue $2.8 million in bonds to pay for various construction, repairs and upgrades.If the City Council accepts the recommendation, Bangor will start the projects as early as June.
“This particular bond will allow us to address a lot of things all at once, and many of them have been put off from prior years that really can use the work,” said Alan Kochis, director of Business Services for the school department. “Over time, most of them would have had to be done eventually, but you can’t defer roofs and safety issues.”
At the top of the projects list is a new water main at Mary Snow School, the third-oldest school in the system. The oldest is Fairmount School, which was built in 1918. “The school was built in 1920 and the main is an old cast-iron pipe that’s about 100 years old and very thin,” Kochis said. Other projects include a new roof at Abraham Lincoln School, the newest Bangor school at 38 years old; exterior security cameras at Abraham Lincoln, Downeast, Fairmount, Fourteenth Street, Fruit Street and Mary Snow schools; a new boys bathroom and library carpet at Bangor High; new siding at Downeast School; handicapped access to athletic fields and new windows at Doughty Middle School; new bathrooms at Vine Street; and a new roof at the William S. Cohen School.
This is the last year of the federal Qualified School Construction Bond program, which allows the school department to issue Qualified School Construction Bonds, which are sold to investors. The federal government will reimburse the school department all or most of the interest cost. Last year, Bangor got a $5.5 million Qualified School Construction Bond at 0.01 percent interest. The money was used to replace Bangor High School’s roof with a new rubber membrane roof warranted for 30 years and do $3.6 million in heating, ventilation and air conditioning work at all 10 schools. “The opportunity to borrow money at a zero interest rate doesn’t come along very often,” Kochis said. “The other nice thing about this bond is we can structure the debt service to meet our needs.” The bond is paid back over a 15-year period. “We’re structuring the debt service so that as our existing debt pays off, we pay more on this bond, and the city’s overall debt service doesn’t increase,” said Kochis.
Wyoming's Natrona County School District gets $175M for high school projectsJeremy Pelzer, Star-Tribune
March 07, 2012
WYOMING: The Natrona County School District’s massive school construction request obtained the binding signature of Gov. Matt Mead. The 2013-14 school capital construction funding bill sets aside more than $175 million for district schools, including $119 million to renovate historic Natrona County High School.
The allocation, along with the more than $108 million already appropriated for planning and design, should also be enough to complete the renovations of Kelly Walsh High School and NCHS, as well as the construction of a new campus to house alternative Roosevelt High School and a shared Center for Advanced and Professional Studies, or CAPS.
Natrona County School District Superintendent Joel Dvorak said some issues still need to be worked out, including the timing of the construction projects and whether the district should kick in money to expand the high schools’ enrollment capacity beyond what the state envisions.
CAPS, as envisioned, would offer upper-level career and academic courses to all district high school students through four academies: business, agriculture and natural resources; architecture, construction, manufacturing and engineering; health science and human services; and creative arts, communication and design. As part of the renovations and possible expansions to Kelly Walsh and NCHS, Natrona County’s high school student capacity would rise to handle the projected enrollment of 3,527 in 2016. However, Natrona County officials have said the state should plan for and pay to build the high school system for 4,100 students — the number of ninth- through 12th-graders projected to enroll in 2020 — so the buildings will last at least 50 years and to avoid future construction with a higher price tag.
Another issue has been whether to start construction on all three high school projects at once or to stagger start times. Dvorak said Tuesday the decision on when to begin construction won’t happen until the district gets halfway through the design process for the three high school projects.
What will it take to build a new elementary school?John Mays, Daily Journal
March 07, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Back to square one. That seems to be the modus operandi for the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District when it comes to contending with its ever-growing enrollment problem that was first discussed in 2008.
In 2009, the school district identified several sites in the city that had the potential for housing a new school. Boothbay Park, Port Royal Park, 3.9 acres at the terminus of Halibut Street and Beach Park Boulevard and portions of the 15-acre site adjacent to City Hall were all on the list. Turns out many weren’t willing to give up park space for a school, some land was not stable enough for such construction and the city wasn’t willing to give up a portion of the 15-acre site for a school since it wouldn’t generate revenue.
Park space doesn’t work. Other land isn’t stable enough to build upon. The city doesn’t want to give up a portion of its 15-acre site. Adding second floors to current schools is expensive, has challenges with accessibility and would add traffic to neighborhoods. Buying a shopping center with current businesses won’t fly.
What is becoming clear is that squares two, three, four and five have been less than smooth, with many spending too much time reacting rather than lending their support to the cause. Perhaps the community overall doesn’t really want to make the necessary compromises it takes to make a new school happen. Then the students will remain crowded in current schools, and perhaps young families won’t find Foster City such an appealing city in which to live. And that’s really square one.
Newark Project Aims to Link Living and LearningAlison Oregor, New York Times
March 06, 2012
NEW JERSEY: Work has begun on an education-centered community featuring three charter schools and affordable housing for teachers in the city’s decayed downtown, with much of the design work done by the noted architect Richard Meier.
The development, called Teachers Village, is expected to cost $149 million when it is completed two years from now. It will consist of eight low-rise buildings clustered around the intersection of William and Halsey Streets, in Newark’s Four Corners historic district. As such, Mr. Meier has designed buildings to reflect the historical nature of the area.
Teachers Village is receiving millions of dollars in government subsidies in various forms, with $14.2 million being provided in equity by the developers. Two of the buildings, together about 134,000 square feet, will be leased to the charter schools and day care while offering retail space on the ground floor. The other six buildings, totaling about 289,000 square feet, will contain as many as 220 rental apartments for teachers with retail space on the ground floor.
Teachers Village received its final approval at the city level in March 2011, but did not break ground until last month with a ceremony that included Mayor Cory A. Booker, Gov. Chris Christie and several private developers and investors.
The school spaces have been leased to two established Newark charter schools, Team Academy and Discovery Charter School, and a new charter, Great Oaks Charter School. The schools, with a charter school that abuts the site, are expected to accommodate about 1,360 children. They and their families are potential customers for the stores that will occupy the 64,000 square feet of retail space being built, Mr. Beit said. So are the residents of the 220 apartments, which are not restricted to teachers, he said. The residences in Teachers Village will be marketed toward Newark educators in charter schools, traditional public schools, private schools and universities, Mr. Beit said. About 40 studio apartments must be kept affordable according to government requirements, but Mr. Beit said the public subsidies involved in the project will enable developers to keep all their prices low — about $700 a month for a studio; $1,000 to $1,100 for a one-bedroom; and $1,400 for a two-bedroom apartment, he said.
Mr. Beit said the project was first presented as being partly publicly financed. Teachers Village is receiving subsidies that include $22.7 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds; $5.3 million of Redevelopment Area Bonds; Federal New Market Tax Credits worth about $38 million and New Jersey Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits from a New Jersey Economic Development Authority allocation of $39 million. The project is also receiving $12 million in loans from Newark, the Brick City Development Corporation and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Mr. Beit said.
PBA Donates Magnets for Faster School LockdownsJake Remaly, Montville Patch
March 05, 2012
NEW JERSEY: Instead of fumbling for keys, locking classroom doors will be as simple as pulling a magnetic strip. Montville PBA Local 140 has donated magnets for doors at Montville Township schools that are designed to make locking doors in the event of an emergency easier, without the need for teachers, substitutes or students to look for keys.
Alfonse Imperiale, directory of county critical infrastructure for the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, said the measure is valuable. Imperiale visits schools around Morris County and evaluates security at the buildings, looking to keep schools as safe as possible in the event of an emergency. He said the recent school shooting in Ohio shows how important it is for schools to remain secure. One of the recommendations he makes is that doors should be kept locked at all times to keep the classrooms secure, but he hears from the schools that's not convenient or practical. The magnet helps address that issue, Imperiale said.
Created by Christopher Ambrosi of Denville, the magnet prevents the door from locking, even though it's in the locked position. When the magnet is pulled off and the door is shut, the door locks. Ambrosi demonstrated the magnets on Friday morning at Lazar Middle School. Principal Sharon Carr said she always is eager to work with law enforcement to keep the school as safe as possible. Ambrosi, who owns a locksmithing company in Denville, Master Grinding and Security, was asked by Denville schools if he had a way to keep the classrooms more secure while limiting any inconvenience. He came up with the magnets. Montville Police Capt. Edward Rosellini saw the magnets at Morris Knolls High School one day. When he learned what they were, he thought they should be brought to Montville and the PBA agreed. Rosellini said getting into lockdown faster could give police more time to arrive to a scene and possibly save lives. There was a concern students might take the magnets, but Rosellini said officials believe students will recognize the magnets are there for their safety. Ambrosi said the magnets also can be positioned to designate which rooms have been evacuated during alarms.
Totally Green Inc : American Schools At Head Of Class In National Sustainability EffortsSilvio Marcacci , 4 Traders
March 05, 2012
NATIONAL: Businesses are often cited as the standard for turning sustainability efforts into profit margins, but two recent developments suggest schools are at the head of the class in reducing emissions reductions and turning energy efficiency into cost savings. As government budgets tighten, places of learning are turning into places of sustainability.
This trend is most apparent in America's public schools. Dedicated funding for the nation's K-12 education system seems to get further reduced with every federal, state, and local government austerity measure. Faced to do more with less, schools are turning to energy efficiency in large numbers.
To that end, 84 percent of the 210 U.S. organizations recently recognized in the Environmental Protection Agency's 2011 ENERGY STAR Leaders program are listed in the "K-12 education category." To receive this recognition, school districts must have either achieved at least a 10 percent increase in overall energy efficiency, or have their entire portfolio of buildings ranked within the top 25 percent of energy performance nationwide.
Most promising, the movement toward high-efficiency education is found in almost every state. ENERGY STAR Leader school districts are located in 36 states and every region of the country. Minnesota is the surprising leader of the pack, with 31 school districts, followed closely by more traditional efficiency leaders New York State and California.
The single biggest efficiency leader was Indiana's Decatur County Community Schools, which reached the remarkable 60 percent efficiency improvement level in 2011, the first organization of any kind to hit that mark. The school's actions have already saved over $1 million in energy costs and 3,000 metric tons of CO2 - equivalent to the annual emissions of 600 vehicles.
ACUPCC efforts have significantly reduced participant carbon footprints. Of the participating schools, 599 have submitted greenhouse gas inventories, which reported collective emissions of 28 million metric tons. 451 have submitted climate action plans, 306 institutions have set a climate neutrality target by 2050 or before, and 93 have pledged neutrality by 2030. In addition, the ACUPCC network has purchased nearly 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy credits, the third-largest single buyer in the U.S.
"This is the first major U.S. sector to commit to climate neutrality, and the first time since WWII that higher education in the U.S. has collectively stepped forward to take on a major societal challenge without waiting for some external entity to request it or fund them," said Dr. Anthony Cortese, president of Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the ACUPCC.
Indeed, well-established alumni and funding networks have had a major impact - ACUPCC signatory schools have secured an average of $2,343,787 from outside sources to fund sustainability efforts.
Utah universities facing billion-dollar nightmare from deteriorating buildingsBrian Maffley, Salt Lake Tribune
March 05, 2012
UTAH: A $63 million request to replace a 1969 science building is on the bubble as lawmakers firm up the state budget this week. But this building is just the tip of a billion-dollar iceberg waiting for taxpayers in coming years as dozens of college buildings continue to deteriorate.
The problem is compounded by design and structural standards that scraped rock bottom in the 1960s, just as campuses around the country embarked on a massive building spree to accommodate the baby boom surge in college-age adults. These buildings have now reached the end of their relatively short design lives, and proposals are stacking up to replace and renovate them.
Over the past decade Utah schools, particularly the University of Utah, have been grappling with the high cost of cheap construction that was endemic 40 to 50 years ago. Chronic problems include leaky water lines and inefficient ventilation systems that drive up utility and maintenance costs and render buildings uncomfortable, even unusable. The U. and other schools have been spending millions on temporary fixes and repairing leak damage.
Big campaign contributors land lucrative Colorado school building contractsDavid Olinger and Eric Gorski, Denver Post
March 04, 2012
COLORADO: Every year from 2007 through 2010, Adams County voters in the Mapleton School District were asked to approve a massive reconstruction of their school buildings.
During those school-bond campaigns, a single construction company and its employees kicked in more than $30,000 in cash to help persuade voters that these projects were needed.
When the bond issue finally passed, that contributor — The Neenan Co. — was handed a $53 million contract to build five new schools and expand a sixth. The Mapleton district also chose Neenan to carry out $5 million worth of smaller projects.
During the same campaigns, one bond underwriter, George K. Baum & Co., also contributed $30,763 in campaign services. After voters said yes, the Mapleton district paid Baum $416,173 to sell its bonds — seven times the rate on other recent school bond sales.
Together, those two companies gave 40 percent of all the donations for four years of Mapleton bond campaigns.
Editorial: School buildings are well worth the costEditorial writer, Lancaster Eagle Gazette
March 04, 2012
PENNSYLVANIA: Voters once again are being given the chance to approve new elementary schools for the Lancaster school district, and we believe they should take it.
The 37-year bond issue will cost local voters about $61.5 million -- not exactly chump change. The state then would kick in another $27 million, allowing for the full replacement of the district's eight active elementary schools and the vacant North Elementary with five modern elementary schools. District officials say simply maintaining the existing buildings for another 25 years would cost about $55 million; if that's true, this bond issue actually could be the cheaper option in the long term.
There's no question the existing buildings are antiquated. They have no room for expansion and desperately need new technology that kids in neighboring school districts already can access. The district has shown it's capable of helping its kids get good grades, earning an excellent rating from the state; however, that doesn't mean the buildings are in good shape.
Children are in school to prepare for success in the job market of tomorrow. While it's possible to do that in aging buildings, the lack of ready technology can't help their odds. Student comfort is a consideration, too; kids learn better when they're not crammed in like sardines.
And the spending on the project alone will benefit the city. An $88 million project would be among the largest in the city's history. Some of that work will be done by local labor; all of it will be subject to Lancaster's income tax.
But to us, the strongest argument is in the money. If it'll cost $55 million to maintain these elementary buildings for 25 years, we're sure the cost will shoot past $61.5 million by the end of 37 years. The bond issue also includes a 0.5 mill continuing levy specifically to fund maintenance of the buildings, which frees up money now being spent on maintenance for actually educating children. That would raise $440,000 per year for maintenance.
Combined, the bond issue and levy would cost voters about $125 per $100,000 in property valuation. We think the expense is well worth it to provide the children of Lancaster with modern schools.
Arizona school facilities funding gap grows between have, have-not districtsBob Ortega, The Republic
March 03, 2012
ARIZONA: The cracks in the school walls are still spreading. The fire alarms sound too often or don't sound at all. Mechanics struggle to keep old school buses running one more year. Budget managers try to figure out where the money will come from to fix leaky roofs, wheezing air-conditioners and broken vents.
Across Arizona, school districts struggle to find the funds to fix and maintain their buildings, in large part because state lawmakers over the past decade have countered laws and legal rulings meant to help all public-school facilities meet or exceed a basic standard.
Nearly 20 years ago, four cash-strapped Arizona school districts launched a landmark legal battle against the state's system of relying on local bonds to pay for building and maintaining schools. They argued that leaving it to local property owners to foot the bill for school facilities through bonds left poor and rural districts scrambling to get by in run-down buildings that fell far below the promise, carved in Arizona's Constitution, to provide a "general and uniform public-school system" for children across the state.
Arizona's Supreme Court agreed. Under court pressure, in 1998 the Legislature passed the Students First law requiring the state to pay for and manage construction of most new schools and school renovations. It created the School Facilities Board to oversee the process, and budgeted $1.3 billion to begin fixing or replacing the shabbiest schools. It set minimum standards that school facilities had to meet -- in effect, bridging the canyon that had separated the "have" from the "have-not" districts.
But almost immediately, the supports for that school-financing bridge began to crumble. Lawmakers balked at providing funding, calling the building-renewal formula too generous. The School Facilities Board has built more than 300 schools across this fast-growing state since 1998. But the funds to maintain and fix those buildings and hundreds of older ones have proven harder to come by.
Meanwhile, even districts that can turn to voters for bonds often struggle. Their ability to pass bonds that raise money for school repairs and new construction has been hampered by the years-long plunge in Arizona property values and by lawmakers' decision in 1998 to slash school-bonding capacity by two-thirds. Broader budget cuts to education in the last few years have added to the pressure.
The result is that the divide between the "have" and the "have not" school districts is widening.
An analysis by The Arizona Republic of school bonding and School Facilities Board financing over the past decade shows that the inequities that led to the Schools First lawsuit 20 years ago are returning. It shows that for over a decade, more than half of the 218 school districts in Arizona haven't or couldn't use bonds to fix or replace their deteriorating schools, and that nearly as many districts have essentially no building-renewal funds left. It also shows that by cutting state building-renewal funds while reducing bonding capacity, lawmakers have increasingly left property-poor districts to fend for themselves, and have hamstrung even large and relatively well-off districts that need money to keep their school buildings in good repair.
Vacant D.C. school buildings could house public chartersBill Turque, Washington Post
March 03, 2012
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Four vacant D.C. public school buildings could become new homes for public charter schools under a proposal by city officials.
The District’s Department of General Services announced Friday that it will consider offers from charters for leasing the former J.F. Cook, Langston, Rudolph and Young elementary schools. Cook, Rudolph and Young were closed for low enrollment in 2008 under former Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. Langston was shuttered in the mid-1990s.
As the city’s charter sector continues to grow — it serves 41 percent of the city’s public school population — the reuse of empty buildings has been a source of tension between the District and charter advocates. The law requires that charter operators receive “right of first offer” on surplus school properties. And while a number of charter schools have gained access to buildings, supporters say they too often end up in the hands of developers or housing other city agencies. In other instances, the city has yielded to neighborhood opposition to the schools. Twenty-one of the city’s 98 charter campuses are in former D.C. public school buildings, according to the D.C. Public Charter School Board.
Emerson College is building a new West Coast campus in HollywoodRoger Vincent, Los Angeles Times
March 02, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Construction is underway on a potential Hollywood landmark, a high-rise college on Sunset Boulevard where students will live and study the arts. Boston-based Emerson College, which has trained many in the entertainment field, is erecting a striking see-through building that will be its new West Coast campus. The $85-million tower, designed by Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne, is intended to make a statement to the community and the entertainment industry, President Lee Pelton said. "Emerson College has a very strong brand in arts and communication, and this is an opportunity to strengthen and expand that brand in Los Angeles," Pelton said.
The school is being built at Sunset and Gordon Street on a site that had been a parking lot for Tribune Studios. When the studios were sold in 2008, Emerson bought the parcel for $12 million from the new owner. By 2014, the building is expected to provide housing, classrooms and training facilities for 200 students, double the number now studying in rented space on West Alameda Avenue in Burbank. Students are housed in a nearby apartment complex. The design of the 10-story building echoes the boxiness of a mid-century office tower, but minus significant chunks of the interior; breezes will pass through the complex via an outdoor terrace.
The shape of the new building was made possible by recent advances in computer-aided design, Mayne said. "It allows us to design much more complicated forms, closer to the way blenders and cars are done," he said, "with softer and much more fluid language." The terrace, open to the sky, will include a 50-foot oak or sycamore tree among other greenery, he said. "People will wonder how that tree got up there."
Among the buildings designed by Mayne and his Culver City firm Morphosis Architects are the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art building in New York, the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Caltech and the Caltrans district headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Emerson College's Hollywood outpost will have 224 rooms in which students and staff will live. There will be three levels of underground parking and a cafe and shops at street level.
Pelton put the full outlay for the new building at $110 million, which includes land acquisition, design and other costs.
Green schools and students' science scores are relatedErika Matich, EurekAlert
March 01, 2012
COLORADO: A nationwide survey shows a positive correlation between Green School practices and student achievement in science. The study was conducted by the University of Colorado Denver's Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences. And presented Wednesday at the Green Schools National Network conference in Denver.
Schools that took part in the survey observe GreenPrint core practices as defined by the Green Schools National Network (GSNN). The core practices are: Curriculum that advances environmental literacy and sustainability; Stewardship and service learning; Sustainable facilities design and management; Health and well being; Strong partnerships and networks.
The results of the survey suggest that as schools implement Green Print core practices at higher levels, student achievement in science tends to show improvement. Approximately 100 schools from 28 states took part in the survey. Student achievement data was gathered from most recent state and district assessment scores in science via state department of education websites as well as the survey.
Participating schools were divided into four regions based on the United States Census Classification system. The regions are West, South, Midwest and Northeast. An average survey score was calculated for each region. Schools from the Midwest had the highest average survey score at 64 percent. The score for schools in the West, including 16 from Colorado, was 55 percent. Schools from the South scored 58 percent and schools in the Northeast scored 49 percent.
"The green movement is relatively young when it comes to schools," said Bryan Shao-Chang Wee, PhD, assistant professor of environmental science education. "We learned several things that will be valuable in continuing to collect data and validating this preliminary online survey."
In order to help establish the importance of green schools in the United States, Wee and his team of researchers would like to do further research by refining the survey and obtaining a larger sample. Researchers would also like to visit green schools for data collection and to evaluate whether the GreenPrint core practices have any correlation to subjects such as reading, writing, social studies and math. "One more important element moving forward is refining the GreenPrint core practices. We need to accurately define the criteria for measuring these practices so schools can accurately report and gauge their success on the survey," said Hillary Mason, a graduate researcher on the team.
The study was presented at the 2nd annual Green Schools National Network conference in Denver and was collectively funded by the GSNN and CU Denver.
New Bedford, MA school system struggles to maintain aging buildingsCharis Anderson, South Coast Today
March 01, 2012
MASSACHUSETTS: Between aging buildings and diminished resources, maintaining the school district's facilities has become an ever bigger challenge, with many buildings across the district in need of some work, said school officials. "There are growing maintenance concerns throughout the school system: buildings that have leaky roofs, others with old boilers, and others still with various maintenance challenges," Mayor Jon Mitchell said Tuesday. He continued later: "We have old school stock, and try as we might, we're not going to be have brand new schools tomorrow, so we have to do a better job of maintenance."
It's a job easier said than done: The number of maintenance staff in the district has dwindled from upwards of 30 a few years ago to about 10 or 11 employees this year, said district officials. Increasing the maintenance load facing the district is the advanced age of many of its schools: The average age is about 61 years, and seven city schools are at least 100 years old, according to records from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The MSBA conducted a needs assessment in 2010 that ranked building conditions at schools across the state on a scale of 1 to 4, with one being best. Eleven of the city's schools received a three or a four on that scale. "Because of the cuts in the budget year after year, the most likely place to cut, cut, cut was in the maintenance department budget," said School Committee member John Fletcher. He continued later: "If you don't repair the minor things that need to be fixed, then they become major, and I think that's what's happened over the years."
The school system is constantly juggling planned projects with repairs that come up on a day-by-day basis, according to School Superintendent Mary Louise Francis. "It's an excruciating balance," she said. Within the past school year, the district's safety officer toured all of the schools to determine what maintenance issues existed and which needed to be prioritized, said Francis. Among the issues catalogued were lighting or electrical issues and roofing issues, according to Deborah Brown, the district's business manager, who said that a number of district buildings also needed repointing. "It would appear as though we need to do some work on getting a plan in place to address these issues," said Brown. "We're constantly prioritizing with the limited funds that we have, but it would be nice to be a little bit more proactive," she said.
According to Francis, there has been talk about sharing a maintenance department with the city, but there is no final decision on that idea yet. School Committee member Larry Finnerty said a decision on whether to combine the two departments needs to be made before the fiscal 2013 budget cycle, which starts shortly. "I can't see us going forward with a new budget without some kind of answer on that," he said. He added later: "It's not going to go away. It's only going to worsen