NCEF News summarizes and provides links to news stories about educational facilities nationwide. Links to older articles may no longer be active.
N.Y.U.’s Plan to Expand Is Approved by CouncilJoseph Berger, New York Times
July 31, 2012
NEW YORK: As opponents shouted “Shame!” from a City Council balcony, New York University won final approval on Wednesday for a huge expansion plan that will change the look and feel of Greenwich Village more than almost any other project in decades.
By an overwhelming 44-to-1 vote, the Council approved a series of zoning amendments, permits and map changes that will allow the university to erect four buildings that together will add a skyscraper’s worth of classrooms, dorm rooms and office space to a leafy 12-block parcel occupied by two university apartment complexes — Washington Square Village and Silver Towers — south of Washington Square Park.
Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn applauded the new plan in remarks before the vote, saying that while she understood residents’ concerns, “I think this plan appropriately balances the need of an important university to grow and expand — which is good for our city — with the historic neighborhood it’s in.”
Construction projects for Mobile County, Alabama schools total $100MStaff writer, Birmingham Business Journal
July 30, 2012
ALABAMA: Tommy Sheffield, facilities manager with Mobile County Schools, said the state’s largest school system has about $100 million worth of construction projects that are either in motion or in the bid process. According to the Press-Register, projects include new schools for Augusta Evans Special School in west Mobile, Whitley Elementary in Prichard and Calcedeaver Elementary in far northwest Mobile County. The system is also getting a new school, Taylor-White Elementary, to relieve overcrowding in west Mobile, along with major renovations to several existing schools.
District's wish list for facilities projects doesn't line up with fundsAdam B Sullivan, Iowa City Press-Citizen
July 28, 2012
IOWA: The Iowa City Community School District’s wish list doesn’t line up with its coffers. Local school leaders have a long list of facilities projects they’d like to take on in the next few years, but there’s a significant gap between the money the district has to complete those projects and their likely cost. The size of the gap? As much as $50 million, according to one board member’s calculations. The likely solution? A bond referendum to be decided by district voters.
Possible projects on the district’s horizon include a new comprehensive high school, one or two new elementary schools, major additions to a few buildings and minor improvements to others. Most funding for facilities projects in the district comes from two designated places. • First, the physical plant equipment levy, last approved by voters in 2004, is a property tax of 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed land value within the district. • Second, the school infrastructure local option sales tax approved by voters in 2007 gives school districts in Johnson County 1 percent of the value of all taxable sales in the county. By 2015, the Iowa City district expects to have collected about $43 million in sales tax revenue.
About $25.6 million of local option sales tax revenue is being set aside to build a new high school, but that probably won’t be enough to complete the project. Superintendent Steve Murley said district administrators are aware that the board may pursue a bond referendum to help pay for the projects they want to complete. “We’re doing some behind-the-scenes work to ensure we’re ready for it if the board chooses that direction,” Murley said.
Craig Hansel, executive director of business resources for ICCSD, said the district is in a good position to issue bonds. “ICCSD has the best bond rating available for any school district in the state. What this means is that we can borrow money at the lowest possible cost the market allows, which is excellent news for or taxpayers,” Hansel said in an email. District voters are batting .500 on school bond referendums, which require 60 percent support to pass. Since 1990, voters have rejected three bond proposals and approved three, most recently a $39 million proposal in 2003 that helped fund construction of Tate High School, North Central Junior High and Van Allen Elementary. West High Principal Jerry Arganbright, who supports bonding to build a new high school, said he’s confident a referendum will see some opposition, but he thinks the community ultimately will support it. “I think the bond will be possible if people saw it as a long-term solution. I think this community is very supportive of education as long as people think there’s a good plan,” he said.
California Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson says districts should upgrade and replace old schoolsTheresa Harrington, Contra Costa Times
July 26, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Although California school districts have largely focused on building new schools to accommodate growing student populations, districts should concentrate more on renovating and replacing aging schools, according to a new report. "California has a lot to learn about building the schools of the future -- and the time to get started is now," said Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, outside the La Escuelita Education Center in Oakland, which is under construction. "The way we build and maintain schools over the next generation will of course make a huge difference to our 6.3 million public school students and to the teachers and school employees who serve them. But our schools matter in other ways as well -- as community centers and leaders in sustainability. That means that every dollar we invest in our school facilities is a dollar that can change the future of our state."
He may have been preaching to the choir. Voters in the Mt. Diablo school district approved a $348 million bond measure in 2010 that helped pay for an $80 million solar project at about 51 schools that is expected to save millions of dollars in energy costs over 30 years. Oakland voters passed a $435 bond measure in 2006 that helped pay for the $75 million Escuelita center, which will open Aug. 27 and serve pre-K through high school students with services including a health clinic and community center. "We've made an investment in our children and families," said Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith. "Our families deserve quality schools in every neighborhood." Oakland plans to place another bond measure on the November ballot. In Contra Costa County, the Antioch and West Contra Costa districts also plan bond measures in November to upgrade or replace aging schools.
The UC Berkeley Center for Cities and Schools analyzed the state's K-12 infrastructure policies, regulations and funding patterns and recommended more emphasis on modernization to support 21st Century education by making schools more sustainable through projects such as solar panels and other energy efficient building methods.
Since the state's 1998 school facilities program began, Californians have invested about $118 billion in school infrastructure from state and local sources. Jeff Vincent, deputy director of the UC Berkeley Center for Cities and Schools and lead author of the report, said it would take an additional investment of about $117 billion over the next decade to satisfy the need for new and updated schools, and complete deferred maintenance.
Money spent on providing access to fresh drinking water, improving air quality and lighting, and reducing noise levels in schools would benefit students by helping prevent asthma and other health risks, as well as provide healthier learning environments where children can concentrate and focus more easily. Torlakson said voters approved two-thirds of the school construction bonds on June ballots and he believes they will also support local bond measures in November, along with a statewide bond measure in 2014.
"Californians all across the state know they key role our schools play in our state's future," he said, "and they have supported them again and again." The report called for new minimum standards, including up-to-date technology that could contribute to physical health and fitness programs, along with college and career preparation. It also recommends that all school projects meet green building standards to reduce operating costs and serve as examples of sustainability.
Kansas Green Schools Burst with Innovative LearningLaura Downey, The Branch
July 26, 2012
KANSAS: When PLT GreenSchools! signed its first-ever statewide agreement in April, announcing that it was joining forces with three other Kansas environmental education programs to deliver more on-the-ground resources to the state’s schools, stories began emerging about the rich environmental education movement that’s being cultivated in the schools of the Sunflower State.
The agreement inked between PLT GreenSchools! and the Kansas Association for Conservation & Environmental Education (KACEE), Kansas Green Schools Network, Project Learning Tree® GreenSchools! and the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA programs, made even more tools available to teachers and students in a state that already requires environmental literacy for K-12 students.
[See profiles of three PLT GreenSchools! that illustrate the breadth of innovative environmental teaching and learning that can be found in Kansas schools.]
Maryland invests $25 million to cut schools' energy billsKevin Rector, Baltimore Sun
July 25, 2012
MARYLAND: Public school districts across Maryland can now apply for state funding to reduce their energy consumption as part of a new $25 million "green schools initiative," the Maryland Energy Administration announced Wednesday. The effort is meant to help "accelerate" the state's goal of reducing its overall energy consumption by 15 percent in the next three years, the administration said. The funding will come from the state's capital budget for schools planning, the administration said. New construction efforts and changes to lightbulbs and heating and air conditioning units in schools will save the state an estimated $80 million over the lifetime of the new equipment, the administration said. School districts with engineering design costs incurred between June 15 and Oct. 15 of this year are eligible for reimbursement through the program, though costs associated with joined "design-build projects" are not eligible, according to the administration's website. School districts must apply for the funding on the administration's website by Nov. 9.
The project is being run by the state's Public Schools Construction Program and is part of a $373 million budget for school construction. In a statement, State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery called the program an "outstanding opportunity" for the state's public schools districts.
School construction pace to slow In Iowa districtDennis Friend, Southwest Iowa News
July 25, 2012
IOWA: “With the completion of the major renovations of Roosevelt and Edison this year, we are nearing the end of the available one-cent sales tax revenue anticipated to be received in our district through the life of the tax,” Council Bluffs school district superintendent Martha Bruckner said before Tuesday’s school board meeting.
The district has borrowed ahead on revenue likely to be generated by the sales tax in effect through 2029. By borrowing ahead, the district has been able to complete building renovation and construction projects, and about $125 million of the $135 million in revenue expected has been committed to bonds and interest to complete current projects.
Shortly after she was hired in 2007, Bruckner championed the renovation of district school buildings to make them suitable for 21st Century learning. Her original goal was to update all the schools by 2015, but money available through the sales tax will run out. “We still need major renovations at Walnut Grove, and we have work to do at Bloomer. The two middle schools need to be done, and we have no money for the stadium,” Bruckner said. If the state extended the one-cent sales tax past its 2029 limit or the economy improved and the revenues increased, Bruckner said the original goal could be met.
The Council Bluffs school board received a construction update at Tuesday’s meeting. Money from the one-cent sales tax will pay for complete $8.6 million in renovations at the Roosevelt and Edison school buildings, and the worh should be finished midway through the 2012-13 school year. The Edison project adds 16,498 square feet of space, a new elevator, an expanded loop field for the geothermal heat pump system, a paved playground and relocated playground equipment. The Roosevelt project adds a new main entry, specialty and preschool classrooms, an elevator and a general updating with new floor and wall finishes. The loop field for the geothermal heat pump system also has been expanded. “Overall, our schools are much more modern, efficient, safe and welcoming because of this revenue source dedicated to school building improvements, and we are thankful for the positive effect on students, staff and the learning environment. We are aware that a few of our elementary schools, our two middle schools, C.B. Stadium and our Educational Service Center are still in need of significant renovation and maintenance. We will look for ways to generate additional local, state or federal revenue to make the necessary improvements,” Bruckner said.
Staci Pettit, the supervisor of facilities, maintenance and custodial services for the district, told the board the bleacher replacement work at Council Bluffs Stadium will be completed by football season. The worn out and unsafe bleachers were torn out earlier this summer. The new bleachers will seat almost 2,800 fans on the home side and more than 1,400 visitors. The district also replaced the storage and maintenance building destroyed in a fire last August. The money will come from the district’s capital fund, which is used for physical plant and equipment improvement.
Oregon school district looks to avoid cuts by selling buildingsStefanie Knowlton, Statesman Journal
July 23, 2012
OREGON: Gervais School District wants to sell its three elementary schools to stave off furlough days and teacher cuts. The small district of about 1,000 students limped through recent budget shortfalls using reserves, but those soon will run out. District officials hope to cut costs in 2013/14 without losing teachers or class time. “We started to think a little bit outside the box,” Gervais Superintendent Rick Hensel said. For sale notices went up on the district’s website this month with a combined price tag of $3.7 million for the three elementary schools. The move-in date is July 2013.
Nearly 500 students attended Brooks and Eldriedge elementary schools last year, and the district rents out the third, North Howell Elementary.
If all goes according to plan, elementary students would move next fall to a consolidated kindergarten through 12th-grade campus, which now is where the middle and high schools are. It would cost about $1.8 million to add enough portables to make it work, but the district estimates the move would save between $500,000 and $800,000 in maintenance, transportation and administration costs per year. That’s in addition to the proceeds from selling the elementary schools. Some of the savings would stem from cutting jobs, mostly maintenance and administration. It might include a few teachers, Hensel said, but not as many as it would be without consolidation. Transportation costs also would shrink. Currently, two-thirds of the district’s students live in town, which means they ride the bus six miles out to rural elementary schools. The central campus is in town.
At this point it’s not clear how the campus layout might look, but one idea is to turn the middle school into a kindergarten through sixth-grade and create a seventh through 12th grade at the high school. Parents and community members raised two main concerns about the plan. Some parents worry about grouping middle school and high school students together, Hensel said, but the district still is working out the details.
University of Illinois board kills controversial contract for architectural work related to renovating 120-year-old buildingodi S. Cohen and Ray Long, Chicago Tribune
July 20, 2012
Illinois: Under pressure from a state oversight panel, the University Illinois board of trustees killed a contentious, multimillion-dollar contract that had raised conflict-of-interest concerns. "It was a short discussion," board Chairman Christopher Kennedy said after the trustees met in closed session to discuss the employment-related matter. "We don't want any more ethical issues associated with the university. We get public money and we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard."
The university now plans to rebid the contract for architectural work related to renovating the 120-year-old Natural History Building on the Urbana-Champaign campus, said Mike Bass, the university's senior associate vice president for building and financial services. The rebidding may delay the project and add to its cost, Bass said.
The Tribune first reported last week that the university had awarded a $4.6 million contract to an architectural firm partially owned by the husband of a key university official who oversees campus construction planning. Jill Maxey, who until this week was the university's associate director of planning, is married to Bruce Maxey, a principal in the firm BLDD Architects and owner of 8.9 percent of the company.
The university had failed to alert proper officials about the potential conflict of interest, as required by state law, when the first part of the contract, for conceptual design plans, was awarded in 2010. The state's Procurement Policy Board, for example, learned of the contract only this past spring, when the university was set to award the larger construction part of the contract to BLDD. The procurement board voted in April and again Tuesday to recommend that the university void the contract. U. of I. trustees had approved it in December. "Once we got (direction) from a state agency, there was no longer any confusion," Kennedy said.
University administrators said Thursday they will not continue the work with one of the other original high-scoring bidders, as some procurement board members had proposed, and instead will rebid the construction phase of the project. BLDD already has been paid $368,000 for the initial plans. "It's the cleanest way to do it, most open," Bass said. "We will start moving on that as quickly as we can." BLDD could bid again for the work, and Bass said university staff is still discussing what will happen if it does. He said Jill Maxey has been reassigned and her job duties no longer include procurement tasks such as vendor selection.
In reaction to the U. of I.'s decision, Randy West, a BLDD principal, said the company had followed all state conflict disclosure laws. He did not respond to a question about whether the firm will rebid on the project.
Beverly Hills has spent $2 million to block plans for a subway that would pass underneath its high schoolDaniel B. Wood, Christian Science Monitor
July 19, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles, America’s city of cars, is experiencing a roadblock over a subway line. A key section of the subway – known originally by its romantic marketing term, “Subway to the Sea,” but now by the more mundane “West Side subway extension” or “Purple Line” because it never really reaches the ocean – is being held up with a lawsuit by Beverly Hills.
Because the track is slated to pass 70 ft. beneath the 1927-built, Beverly Hills High School – which itself was built on active oilfields – the tony zip-code is spending millions to fight the project for reasons, it says, of safety.
“Methane gas, toxic chemicals and teenagers don’t mix,” says the opening line of a PTA-produced video, which blends computer-generated images of exploding fireballs with newsreel footage of an actual methane fire that ignited nearby in 1985 and burned two city blocks for five days. “But this dangerous combination is on the verge of exploding at Beverly High, turning the school into a mega-disaster.”
The city of Beverly Hills, which reportedly has spent $2 million in legal and public relations fees, filed suit last month to force the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to reroute the link 1,000 ft. away, eliminating the need for a tunnel. The MTA says it has ruled out the alternative route because it would attract fewer riders and is dangerously close to an active earthquake fault, and subway backers are denouncing the Beverly Hills campaign.
California schools decay as they await state emergency repair funds for yearsJoanna Lin, Sacramento Bee
July 18, 2012
CALIFORNIA: Eight years after California settled a landmark lawsuit promising hundreds of millions of dollars to repair shoddy school facilities, more than 700 schools still are waiting for their share of funds as students take classes on dilapidated campuses with health and safety hazards.
As California struggles with chronic budget shortfalls, it has funded less than half of the $800 million required by the Emergency Repair Program, which grew out of a class-action lawsuit against the state that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to settle. Since then, schools in 39 counties have waited as long as four years for the money to fix leaking roofs, crumbling pavement and clogged sewer lines.
As their projects languish without funding, schools are watching buildings deteriorate and hairline fissures split into cracks wide enough to swallow pennies. They're scraping by with temporary fixes, diverting money from their classrooms and delaying other critical facility repairs.
Across the Sacramento region, 49 schools are waiting for more than $75 million in emergency repair funding that the state has approved but not yet paid. The state owes 19 schools more than $1 million each, including nearly $7.8 million to Hiram W. Johnson High and $7.3 million to Fruit Ridge Elementary, both in the Sacramento City Unified School District.
The Emergency Repair Program was born out of a landmark class-action lawsuit that sought to entitle every student to a clean, safe and functional school. Williams v. California, filed in 2000 by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights organizations, charged that tens of thousands of students, the majority low-income and nonwhite, were being deprived of basic educational opportunities by attending schools in "slum conditions." In school after school, students reported too few working toilets, infestations of rats and cockroaches, and illnesses brought on by mold and fungus in their classrooms. Williams v. California, filed in 2000 by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights organizations, charged that tens of thousands of students, the majority low-income and nonwhite, were being deprived of basic educational opportunities by attending schools in "slum conditions." In school after school, students reported too few working toilets, infestations of rats and cockroaches, and illnesses brought on by mold and fungus in their classrooms. Then-Gov. Gray Davis put up a contentious fight. Over four years, the state spent nearly $20 million in legal fees to quash the suit. When Davis was ousted in a recall election, Schwarzenegger called his predecessor's position "outrageous." In 2004, within a year of taking office, Schwarzenegger settled the lawsuit and declared: "We will neglect our children no more."
California agreed to pay $800 million under the settlement for the state's lowest-performing schools to address emergency conditions in their facilities. "You had this cycle of disrepair," said Brooks Allen, director of education advocacy at the ACLU of Southern California and the attorney overseeing the settlement's implementation. "The concept of this program was where you have an urgent health and safety issue, you should be able to take care of that right away."
Funding for the Emergency Repair Program dried up when state revenue plummeted during the recession. The state was supposed to provide at least $100 million annually starting in 2005-06, using excess funds that had been routinely overbudgeted for special programs such as adult education, professional development or arts and music.
Fairfax County, VA Staff, Public to Revamp School Renovation CriteriaErica R. Hendry, FallsChurchPatch
July 17, 2012
VIRGINIA: A review of how schools are ranked on Fairfax County Public Schools' building renovation queue will be done through a combination of community input and staff review rather than a task force or independent consultant, board members decided at a work session Monday. The board develops its Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) every five years, which includes new schools, renovations, capacity enhancements, additions and infrastructure management.
Schools receive improvements in the order in which they're ranked on the system's renovation queue, driven by a list of weighted criteria ranging from how the buildings serve "Fundamental Educational Requirements (FER)," including whether they are under or over capacity, to their age and physical condition.
In 2008 when the board last approved its list of criteria, it also agreed to re-evaluate schools in the queue whose projects have not yet been covered in bonds. In the past year, as the board has approached that five-year review period, several members and parents — many of them from Falls Church High School — have asked the board to reconsider how much value it places on certain items; in the case of FCHS, whether a school is over- or under-enrolled.
Sixty-three of FPCS' 194 schools and centers are currently in the queue, FCPS chief operating officer Dean Tistadt said Monday. The new criteria will affect the roughly 40 buildings whose projects aren't covered by bonds issued in 2009, 2011 or 2013.
While board members and schools staff agreed community involvement was crucial at some point in the process, they had different views on whether the board needed to make slight changes to what they have already been doing or more drastically shift their method. Some board members argued FCPS staff was capable of handling the kind of changes the queue requires. Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) said the largest community complaints are coming from schools currently under-enrolled, a factor they think weighs too heavily in the ranking process. "Those are very slight things that can adjust slightly, and I think staff is capable of doing that," she said.
Patterson, NJ schools ready for modern makeoverMaddy Houk, Petterson Irrigator
July 17, 2012
NEW JERSEY: Patterson schools will get a boost to modernize local campuses thanks to $17 million that the State Allocation Board designated for the district June 27. Phil Alfano, superintendent of the Patterson Joint Unified School District, said he is excited about the money that will allow the renovations. “Employees feel better about coming to work, and our students feel better about coming to school when they have school facilities that are up to date and in good repair,” Alfano said. “It creates a positive environment for learning.”
Modernization projects include building a new central administration building at Patterson High and re-roofing the high school’s music room and library. In addition, the portable classrooms on the North Seventh Street side of the high school campus will be demolished.
Del Puerto High School will get covered walkways for classrooms and a courtyard, where two existing classrooms are to be removed. Del Puerto’s buildings also will be upgraded for communication and for technology infrastructure for the new electrical system and computers.
Meanwhile, at Las Palmas Elementary School, the kitchen will get an overhaul with new flooring, stainless steel sinks, and a worktable and dishwashing area. The administrative office will be made larger and given a new entry, floor and ceiling.
Some classrooms at Northmead Elementary and Grayson Charter in Westley will be removed and others relocated. Northmead will also get a new administration office, as well as cafeteria upgrades that include new flooring, restrooms and painting.
All these project upgrades already have received state approval. The next step is for those projects to go to bid on construction, determining when work starts. The State Allocation Board offers grants to school districts in which students are housed in permanent buildings that are at least 25 years old and in portable classrooms that are at least 20 years old. The buildings must not have been previously modernized with state funds, as is the case in Patterson. The local district will have to match 20 percent of the grant money with district facility accounts build up by developer fees and bond funds because the local district was eligible for additional funding through the Financial Hardship Program, which decreases their match requirement. Otherwise, the distsrict's match would be 40 percent. The district has 90 days from June 27 to have contracts signed with construction firms. Then, district officials will meet with architects to see which projects will begin first, or if they will all start simultaneously. The local school district applied for the money two years ago. Ruben Piña, president of the board of trustees, said he would be glad when money is in hand — probably by mid-October. “The board, with input from the community and teachers, will prioritize the list of needs,” Pina said.
New bell tower to be focal point of student plaza at New College of FloridaCarl Mario Nudi , Bradenton Herald
July 16, 2012
FLORIDA: Students at New College of Florida will have a great meeting place in the near future. Workers recently began the reconstruction of the open space plaza in front of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library. The grand pedestrian plaza was included in plans completed in 2011 for the Academic Center next to the library.
A major focal point of the plaza will be a contemporary-styled bell tower. "Where many of us went to college there was a bell tower and it usually was a prominent landmark (on the campus)," said John Martin, vice president of finance and administration at New College, "and we wanted to give the students here the same experience." Martin said the tower will become an iconic part of the campus that stretches from Sarasota Bay to east of U.S. 41, near University Parkway. "It'll be right in front of the library, which is always a central part of any college," he said.
The idea of a bell tower came from a major supporter of New College, Beverly Koski, who donated $400,000 for its construction. When Harmon Hailey, lead design architect from the St. Petersburg firm Renker-Eich-Parks was asked to include a bell tower into the design of the Academic Center, he said he first included it as part of the main structure. "I met with Mrs. Koski and she said, 'It just doesn't make me smile'," Hailey said. "That sent me back to look at other alternatives." He said he came up with three options, one based on a Sarasota church bell tower, the second on the concept of building on learning, and the last on the four compass points. After talking with Koski and the college administration, the design team came up with a combination of the last two: four twisting, concrete obelisks, one taller than the other, with two rings holding them together.
Stabil Architectural Precast of St. Petersburg is constructing the bell tower. The four bells, cast in France by the centuries-old Paccard foundry, will hang from the two rings.
The 64-foot structure will be named after Koski and her late husband, Robert, co-founder of Sun Hydraulics. The Koskis were early supporters of New College, giving the first large gifts to build the library, which opened in 1985. Martin said the college administration, faculty and students are looking forward to the mid-October completion of the plaza and bell tower. "The plaza will be a center and hub of the campus," he said. "Time out of the class is just as important as classroom study." Hailey said the plaza design, with plenty of open space and grassy lawns, fits with the new design concepts of blurring the edge of the interior of a structure and the outdoors. "Planners are trying to provide as much green space as possible," he said. "It's important to leave the environment as natural as possible."
Massachusetts colleges in midst of building boomBrian Lee, Telegram and Gazette
July 16, 2012
MASSACHUSETTS: College leaders indeed keep an eye on campus construction projects at other schools, Fitchburg State University President Robert V. Antonucci chuckled. “Sure,” said Mr. Antonucci, a sophomore at the school in 1965 when its now “worn out” science building was built. “It's a competitive market, in both the private and public sector.” Construction is progressing rapidly on FSU's $57 million Science Center on North Street, a 55,000-square-foot building scheduled for completion next summer. It will be followed by a yearlong renovation of the adjacent Condike Science Building, which will provide 45,000 square feet of updated classrooms, offices and laboratories. The science building was part of a master plan developed by the governor and approved by the Legislature. “We all came out of that with equal facilities, but we do watch the competition,” Mr. Antonucci said. “The issue is, if you're going to have a program you have to have facilities. Students demand that.”
There's a lot of construction to watch these days. Statewide, the total value of campus construction contracts awarded was $255.9 million in 2009, $311.3 million in 2010 and $498.3 million last year, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. However, the hammer swung the other way nationally: Campus construction contracts fell from $11.2 billion in 2010 to $10.7 billion in 2011, McGraw-Hill said. “The college and university marketplace has been seen as a bright light among other markets that have really suffered” in Massachusetts, said Greg Beeman, president of the Massachusetts Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. Mark P. Bilotta, chief executive officer of the Colleges of Worcester Consortium, Inc., said, “The impressive amount of construction on our campuses is a great indicator of healthy enrollments and strong, campus-based stewardship. I think it's also an indicator that Greater Worcester continues to grow as a national and international destination for talented college students, faculty and staff.”
Anthony Consigli, president of Consigli Construction Co., Inc. in Milford, said his company is seeing an uptick in building activity with private and public college and university clients. “The public universities have been steadily building throughout the recession and continue to plan new facilities, with an emphasis on student residential life, as state college campuses are being transformed from commuter to residential campuses,” he said. A key local example is the 400-bed residence hall and dining facility that Consigli was recently awarded at Worcester State University, he said. A WSU spokesman said the school is in the preliminary phase of planning the residence hall, slated to open in 2014. Mr. Consigli said the increased activity among schools is “perhaps driven by pent-up demand from projects that were shelved during the recession.”
Scheduled to open in December, the University of Massachusetts Medical School's $400 million research and education center is 90 percent finished and “essentially structurally complete,” said Dr. Terence R. Flotte, dean of the School of Medicine. Called the Albert Sherman Center, the nine-story facility will have wet research space, clean rooms, research core space and new education space for UMass Medical School. . The state, as part of its $1 billion Life Sciences Bill, granted $90 million toward the project's construction costs. The National Institutes of Health is poised to grant the Sherman Center $150 million per year for its research projects. The medical school is funding the remaining cost of the project through borrowing. The dean said UMass will end up getting “more building” than anticipated. The cost of steel and construction material remained low, and the school was able to get advantageous financing for the remaining costs of the building that was not incorporated in the $90 million from the state. “At one point we thought we were probably going to have a building (of) around 485,000 square feet. I think the final tally will be 512,000 gross square feet,” Dr. Flotte said. A 2009 study by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Center projected that building the structure would bring $640 million in direct and indirect construction-related spending to Worcester.
Elsewhere in the region college construction projects abound: •Nichols College in Dudley will open its 30,000-square-foot, $10 million campus center in October. •Becker College's approximately $9 million, 35,727 square foot, two-story Campus Center at the Leicester campus will open to students upon their return Aug. 25. The building is linked by a glass bridge connector, suspended between the new structure and the existing student center by a neo-classical masonry tower, into the second floor of the existing 15,000-square-foot Student Center. The new building includes a 254-seat dining facility, fitness center, game room, multimedia lounge, quiet study room and student group office space, a school official said. •Worcester Polytechnic Institute's 145,000-square-foot Sports & Recreation Center will open next month. Excavation has begun along Park Avenue for WPI's $20 million, 534-car, underground parking garage that will have rooftop athletic fields for softball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, rugby, and other recreational activities. It is projected to open in January. Also, WPI just had a groundbreaking for a 258-bed, 89,000-square-foot, apartment-style student residence hall at 10 Faraday St. Construction is expected to be completed by July 2013 •Clark University in Worcester is converting a portion of the once public Downing Street into a campus pedestrian plaza. •In August, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will open a $10 million, 54,000-square-foot building at 10 Lincoln Square to optometry students. •Worcester State University will also build a $45.5 million, 100,000-square-foot Wellness Center, expected to open in 2015. The project is among a list of commonwealth capital investments, according to an updated five-year capital plan released by state officials. Construction is expected to begin early next year, and it will replace the existing gymnasium built in 1958, a school spokesman said. •In addition to Fitchburg State's science projects, “substantial completion” of the first phase of the Hammond Campus Center renovation is expected next month, a school official said. The work includes a new bookstore and glass-towered entrance facing North and Pearl streets, and the creation of a student development wing that will house the Student Government Association, Fitchburg Activities Board, student Rescue Squad and the campus radio station.
New Jersey schools offered funds to replace fluorescentsEliot Caroom, Star-Ledger
July 15, 2012
NEW JERSEY: For more than 70 years, their pale, sterile light has bathed kindergartners, hospital patients and weary travelers in bus depots alike. Now at long last, the first fluorescent light fixture brought to market in the late 1930s, the T12, will be put out to pasture. The lights are so inefficient the U.S. Department of Energy ruled in 2009 that manufacturers must meet a new standard or the bulbs can't be sold anymore. State officials are offering $6 million to K-12 schools, trying to purge the lights from the state's classrooms. "While most T12 lighting fixtures have been replaced over the years through other energy efficiency programs, some school buildings still use them," explained Greg Reinert, a spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities. "T12s are older technology and are the most inefficient lighting system in the marketplace."
LED lights are one option for a more efficient replacement, and so are newer models of fluorescent bulbs.
The BPU's offer for schools with T12s stubbornly still in place is an all-expenses-paid replacement (within certain price limits), not just a partial payment or a loan. "We're certainly going to take advantage of the T12 lighting program they have now," said Steven Morlino, who is in charge of managing Newark's public school facilities. Morlino said Newark schools replaced a large number of light fixtures -- 95,000 -- in the late 1990s, but some older models are still hanging around. "We do intend to partake of some of that money and have them retrofitted," Morlino said. All public and private K-12 schools are eligible for money, as long as their utility bill includes a nearly universal surcharge for clean energy called the Societal Benefits Charge. Some schools served by municipal utilities or regional cooperatives won't qualify. School officials can find more information at NJCleanEnergy.com/T12.
The incentives range from around $100 to as much as $500 per lighting fixture depending on the size and type of light. "On average, lighting represents more than 30 percent of a school's electricity usage, making it an ideal choice for efficiency improvements," said BPU President Bob Hanna in a statement. "Proper lighting can have a dramatic effect on learning and overall well-being in the classroom, while at the same time advancing Gov. Christie's Energy Master Plan energy conservation goals." The money will come from clean energy funds the BPU collects from a surcharge on the bills of gas and electric ratepayers around the state. "We like the idea," said Stefanie Brand, a state advocate for ratepayers. "We want to see the clean energy money spent on projects where there is a societal benefit, which funding these schools will do."
Nearly $500 Million in Ohio State Funding for School Construction ApprovedMolly Bloom, State Impact
July 14, 2012
OHIO: The Ohio School Facilities Commission approved more than $471 million in state funding for school construction projects Thursday. That’s more money than approved last year, Gongwer News Service says. The three school districts receiving the most state funding for their school construction projects this round are the South-Western school district in Franklin County followed by the Marlington and Beaver school districts. Each project must be supported by both state and local funds. And Gongwer notes that it’s still up to voters to approve the local tax dollar side of things: OSFC gives districts 13 months to accomplish that before the district becomes “lapsed” and the funding gets distributed elsewhere as local election efforts continue.
[OSFC Executive Director Rick Hickman] said he is glad a number of previously approved districts were able to pass their bond issues in March. “We’re very pleased with what appears to be a turnaround with school districts and the economic issues that they faced at the ballot box.” Hickman is referring to the fact that voters approved a majority of the bond issues on the March ballot. In the special election coming up next month, voters in four districts will weigh in on bond issues.
Energy Efficiency Program Means No More Dim Bulbs in New Jersey SchoolsTom Johnson, New Jersey Spotlight
July 13, 2012
NEW JERSEY: The Christie administration is setting aside $6 million to help public and private schools in New Jersey reduce their energy bills by replacing antiquated lighting.
The initiative, financed out of the state’s clean energy program, will be available to participants on a first-come, first-served basis. It will cover the entire cost of the upgrades, including materials, labor, permitting, and proper disposal of the lights, known as T-12 fixtures. Incentives range from approximately $100 to $500 per fixture, depending on the type, and are offered in association with complete fixture replacement All public and private schools that pay electric bills through one of the state’s four electric utilities are eligible to participate. The clean energy program is financed by a special surcharge on gas and electric bills known as the societal benefits charge.
“Lighting efficiency was not a priority when most schools were designed,’’ said New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Bob Hana. “On average, lighting represents more than 30 percent of a school’s electricity usage, making it an ideal choice for efficiency improvements." Hanna also said the proper lighting in the classroom will enhance learning at the same time as advancing the state’s goals to reduce energy consumption.
The state’s newly revised Energy Master Plan calls on New Jersey to sharply curb how much energy businesses and residents use. The quickest way of saving consumers and businesses money is on electric bills, which traditionally rank among the most expensive in the nation. That plan, however, has come under fire from environmentalists because it retreats from the previous goal of reducing energy use by 20 percent by 2020. The administration also has raided the clean energy funds repeatedly since it took office to help balance the state budget.
This initiative serves as a supplement to other clean energy programs -- such as a smart building lighting incentive -- and other programs aimed at reducing energy use. Many school districts have replaced the T-12 fixtures, the most inefficient type of lighting now available, but some school building still use them. State officials say this is an offer that all qualifying schools cannot afford to refuse. With most schools closed during the summer, it is perfect timing for school officials to make energy efficiency upgrades with no cost to the district.
$213 Million Washington State School Construction Assistance Awards AnnouncedDan Thesman, KAPPTV
July 13, 2012
WASHINGTON: Sixteen school districts in Washington State will benefit from more than $213 million in capital campaign money made available by the state legislature and Governor Chris Gregoire. In Wapato alone, the district will receive $23.2 million in state assistance for the Wapato High School remodel and rebuild project. District officials say the rest of the money will come from a $20 million bond approved by voters in February 2011. Other school districts receiving funding in our area are East Valley (Yakima), Kennewick and Yakima.
Back to School in the Green Schoolhouse – Interview with Co-Founder Jeff ZotaraAlex Ferreras, Design Milk
July 12, 2012
ARIZONA: One development in schooling that provides good reason for hope comes from innovating a most unlikely aspect of education – school architecture. The Green Schoolhouse Series project is a revolutionary new idea that hopes to transform a number of American schools from utilitarian “grade factories” into state-of-the-art facilities. The schools are built entirely using volunteers and donated money, they are environmentally friendly, and are aesthetically pleasing in addition to being supremely functional. And with over 20 of these schoolhouses in the works, Jeff Zotara – a senior partner of the project – hopes that they will inspire other schools to follow suit.
Speaking with Zotara, he elicits a tangible enthusiasm for his work, and with their first groundbreaking having just been held this month in Phoenix, AZ, there is reason for him to be excited. [Interview follows.]
Study on elementary school construction stirs controversy in Needham, MAEvan Allen, Boston.com
July 12, 2012
MASSACHUSETTS: A study on the feasibility of renovating or replacing two aging elementary schools in Needham has raised the ire of residents and pitted town boards against each other over concerns that open space in Needham will be swallowed up by construction. The so-called "prefeasibility study,' released in final draft form on July 6, lays out three possibilities, but one, which involves building a new Hillside School at Cricket Field, has sparked fierce debate in town. It has inspired the creation of a “Save Cricket Field” movement complete with custom-made t-shirts, and another movement of Hillside parents who want all options considered.
“We moved to the Cricket Field area because we have this beautiful green space in our district,” said Sue Owen at a Board of Selectmen meeting attended by about 75 people on Tuesday night. “If we lose that, we feel like it would change our neighborhood.” The Park and Recreation Commission, which controls Cricket Field, has formally requested that the School Committee take the Cricket Field option out of consideration. At a School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Committee members decided not to vote on the request, saying they did not want to limit their thinking or appear to be endorsing any one option. “This report is literally hot off the presses,” said Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst. “I think it would be premature to take any options off.”
In an interview, School Committee chair Heidi Black described the findings of the prefeasibility study as “very, very preliminary,” and said that none is preferred. At Tuesday's School Committee and Board of Selectmen meetings, she tried to reassure worried residents that the study is a starting point, not a definitive document. The first option laid out in the study is to renovate both schools at their present locations. School Committee members have said that this is the option they prefer, but there are several major problems with the Hillside site. According to the study, Hillside is a 24.6-acre parcel of land, but wetlands shrink the usable acreage to just under six. The area is prone to flooding. And there are questions about whether the land is contaminated by chemicals that seeped into the soil in the 1980s. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is currently monitoring the site, according to the study. The possible contamination likely wouldn’t prevent construction, but would make it more costly, according to the study.
The second option is to build a new 6th grade school on DeFazio Field, renovate Mitchell, and redistrict surrounding schools. And the idea that has raised hackles around town: build Hillside at Cricket and renovate or rebuild Mitchell. Cost estimates for all three options range from around $75 million to $90 million. The district plans to apply for funds from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
School’s out, construction’s onLisa Pemberton, The Olympian
July 11, 2012
WASHINGTON: Crews are tackling nearly 30 construction projects this summer in the Olympia School District. Most are part of the “small works” projects outlined in the $97.8 million bond measure voters approved in February, while others are being paid for with capital maintenance funds, said district spokesman Ryan Betz.
Also this summer, architectural firms are designing a $28 million facility to house Olympia Regional Learning Academy and a $20 million renovation of Garfield Elementary School. Construction on both of those schools will begin in the summer of 2013. Meantime, plans for a $33 million middle school on the campus of Centennial Elementary have been put on hold, Betz said. “We’re waiting to see what enrollment numbers look like in the fall,” he said. “When we created the master plan for the district, enrollment in the southeast corner was on the rise. … Over the last year or year and a half it’s been pretty flat.”
One of the largest “small works” projects is a $4.4 million expansion and renovation at Jefferson Middle School. The work includes interior and exterior painting, improvements in the drainage system, new flooring throughout the building and improvements to the HVAC system. “Crews are also converting two former home economics classrooms and one regular classroom into three new science labs for the new Jefferson Advanced Math and Science (JAMS) program,” Betz said.
Houston School District to consider investment of rebuilding smaller high schoolsEricka Mellon, Houston Chronicle
July 10, 2012
TEXAS: Several aging schools that have seen their student enrollments fall over the last two decades would be rebuilt or significantly reconstructed under HISD Superintendent Terry Grier's bond proposal. The new campuses would be built to house fewer students than the originals but the plan anticipates some enrollment growth.
But the district's elected trustees must decide whether spending millions to restore schools such as Yates - where enrollment has dropped dramatically over the last two decades - is a sound investment. When he unveiled his $1.9 billion bond plan last month, Grier said new high schools would revitalize communities, helping lure students back to their neighborhood campuses. The prospect has been met with hope tempered by skepticism.
Newark high school goes green with Rocket ComposterChristina Giannantonio, Star-Ledger
July 09, 2012
NEW JERSEY: When school opens in September, Weequahic High School will be the first of Newark's schools to recycle its own food waste. The school will be using its recently unveiled Rocket Composter, a renewable-technology device that processes food waste into compost.
According to Peter Marcalus of NATH Sustainable Solutions, the Rocket Composter is an on-site aerobic system that will recycle Weequahic's food waste into compost that can be used for landscaping, horticultural needs and as a hands-on science learning tool. It will also reduce the cost of disposing food waste.
"As one of the largest school districts that produces large amounts of food waste, it is important for us to explore alternatives to traditional disposal," said Steve Morlino, executive director of facilities and plant operations for the Newark School District.
West Virginia gets its 1st green public schoolAssociated Press, Charleston Daily Mail
July 09, 2012
WEST VIRGINIA: A new elementary school in Martinsburg has been certified as the state's first "green" public school.
The architect for the project, Charleston-based Williamson Shriver Architects, announced that the Spring Mills Primary School has been awarded LEED Gold Certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is a sustainable building evaluation from developed by the United States Green Building Council.
The building incorporates a number of design elements intended to reduce energy, lighting and water consumption. For example, the design makes maximum use of natural light in classrooms. Other features are expected to reduce consumption of energy by 33 percent and water by 30 percent, and a composing system will reduce the amount of food waste taken to landfills by 78 percent.
Cincinnati Public Schools to reluctantly sell closed buildingsJessica Brown, Cincinnati.com
July 09, 2012
OHIO: This summer Cincinnati Public Schools plans to reluctantly sell at least five closed schools, and possibly more. The process, however, isn’t sitting well with some board members. That’s because Ohio law requires districts to give charter school operators first dibs on buying the buildings. Some board members think the district should instead be able to sell its assets as it chooses. “We’ve been elected to be the caretakers of these generations-long investments in public property that belong to our taxpayers,” said School Board President Eve Bolton. “We are interested in operating in a free-market system and not being constrained by outside rules.”
The list of for-sale buildings is expected to be approved at tonight’s school board meeting, and may expand. It includes the old Bloom, Linwood, Losantiville, Herberle, and Sands schools. It also includes the land on which the old Millvale school used to stand and four other parcels of land, such as easements that the district no longer needs. The district has already sent the list to headquarters of the local charter schools, which have 60 days to respond. Any buildings that aren’t sold through that process will auctioned off. The Hamilton County Auditor’s Office values the listed properties at $12 million.
The district may also vote to lease the old Heinhold school on Baltimore Avenue in East Westwood to the Washington, D.C.-based SEED Foundation, which plans to open a public boarding school here in 2013-14. The schools on the sell-list have been closed for years as the district moved through a decade-long $1.2 billion project to rebuild or renovate its entire building stock. Many schools were permanently closed and some were demolished to meet the district’s shrinking enrollment. CPS auctioned off its last block of schools in 2009.
But the process still irks some board members. Charter schools – there are about 30 in Hamilton County alone – are public schools run by independent organizations. Urban districts, like Cincinnati Public, have historically seen them as competition for students and state dollars.
Yet Ohio law requires CPS give charter schools first dibs at buying any school buildings that have been closed at least two years. CPS recently lost an Ohio Supreme Court appeal on the issue. It’s now considering adding more buildings to the list even before the two-year deadline to prove that its complying with the court order, Bolton said. The court case arose when a charter school operator sued because CPS sold him a building, then tried to block him from opening a school there. The court sided with the charter operator, Roger Conners.
Charter school policy groups welcomed the news. “Those were paid for with public school dollars so it makes sense to re-purpose them for that use,” said Emmy Partin, director of policy and research for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based think tank and charter school sponsor. She said she wouldn’t expect to see any new new start-up charter schools opening up because of the sale because it’s harder for new schools to secure enough funding for a building purchase. A more likely scenario, she said, would be existing charter groups buy the buildings for expansions or to open additional locations.
While competition from charter schools has long been an issue in large urban districts, Bolton said that’s not her chief concern. “We’re much more concerned about not being able to find the best dollar and the best turn of that property for the neighborhoods in which those schools are located.” Some of the buildings in the right hands, could be re-purposed to become catalysts for neighborhood revitalization and economic growth, she said. “Some of these buildings could have big impact on neighborhood revitalization or economic development,” said Bolton. “Instead we’re being forced to operate outside the free market.” Linwood Community Council President Tom Salamon said he’d rather to see the old Linwood school turned into office space or apartments. “I don’t think opening it again (as a school) would be necessary or beneficial to the neighborhood,” said Salamon. “To me an office environment would be a very good fit there.”
Finland educators say school building design is a factor in academic successDave Murray, MLive.com
July 08, 2012
MICHIGAN: Apparently Finland even designs its school buildings better. It seems not a day goes by when the Scandinavian country’s academics and teacher preparation systems are held up to what happens in the United States. But Education Week blogger Sarah Sparks notes that one third of the country’s educational approach revolves around creating the right environment for learning.
American schools tend to be built to last, and some of the 1920s-era buildings tend to be virtual fortresses. That means the structures, with their thick stone walls, are still standing proudly. But it also means they were built to reflect a 1920s approach to teaching, and they’re hard to adapt to modern methods.
Grand Rapids Public Schools leaders faced decisions on whether to build new or rebuild from within as they planned $165 million in renovations that resulted in about a dozen new and renovated schools during the last decade.
Sparks visited ‘Finnished’ Spaces, a traveling exhibit at Finland’s Washington, D.C., embassy that describes the thoughts that went into designing seven schools that opened between 2001 and 2007, roughly the same time frame as the Grand Rapids projects. She said the buildings “exemplify the country’s move from factory-style schools, with all classrooms and desks in rows, to contemporary campuses built to meet the pedagogical and social needs of their students and teachers.”
Guidelines for a proper learning environment state that a school “should be a place that is physically, psychologically, and socially safe, promoting the child’s growth, health, and learning as well as their positive interaction with teachers and fellow pupils,” she wrote. Sparks wrote buildings have spacious teachers’ lounges and work spaces – one with a built-in coffee bar and cafe tables, where the principal serves coffee and tea during breaks. The idea is to create a place for coworkers to meet casually.
The buildings include “indoor atriums overlooked by upper-story classes as well as outdoor courtyards sheltered to the wind but with easy sight lines for adults supervising students. And most of the schools include floor-to-ceiling windows intended to fill classrooms with natural light.” One designed its play yard to face east “so that students with morning recess get more sun exposure and Vitamin D.” The buildings are laid out in clusters, with multiple gathering places inside and out to accommodate recess sessions. Students there get a 15-minute break after every 45-minute lesson. “Every single detail has a meaning, has a purpose because all of these designs have been done in collaboration with the teachers, the principal and the architects,” said Pasi Sahlberg, the director general of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation at Finland’s education ministry, according to Sparks’ story.
Some of those details are reflected in the Grand Rapids schools, the first of which opened in 2006. The Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr. Leadership Academy has a soaring atrium that connects the classroom wing from the cafeteria, gymnasium and library. The library in the Gerald R. Ford Middle School has floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage on the morning light on its eastern exposure. The building also has small rooms on each pod where students can work with teachers in small groups or staff members can gather for planning. Sibley Elementary’s classrooms are connected with rooms where students can work one-on-one with paraprofessionals or in very small groups.
I’m not sure if the building’s feature of placing hand driers in the hallway outside lavatories will catch on, but the rooftop deck connected to the art room that shows a sweeping view of the downtown skyline is impressive.
Newark school boss overrules advisory board, will lease 5 buildings to charter schoolsJessica Calefati, Star-Ledger
July 06, 2012
NEW JERSEY: Newark’s top education official has overruled the wishes of the district’s advisory school board and will lease five district-owned facilities to charter schools, a district spokeswoman said. Because the district is state controlled, virtually any decision made by the district’s elected school board can be overturned by Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson or acting state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf.
On Monday, the board voted to strike down four of the five proposed lease agreements after deciding at an earlier meeting to table balloting. Many parents and community leaders oppose the leases. Anderson said the rental agreements are essential and will generate "much needed revenue" that the district can invest in the roughly 40,000 traditional public school students it serves. The five leases will bring the district $500,000 to $700,000 a year. "Our singular focus remains working towards the day when every single Newark student attends a school that puts them on the path to college readiness — regardless of the type of school," Anderson said in a statement.
Five charters, Paulo Freire, Newark Legacy, 100 Legacy Academy, Team Academy and North Star Academy, will lease facilities previously known as Burnet Street School, Madison School, West Side NAF Academy, Eighteenth Avenue School and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School starting next school year. The only lease agreement the board did not contest was that of Paulo Freire Charter School, whose chief is former Science Park High School teacher Tauheedah Baker-Jones. The board voted unanimously to approve its lease of space at Burnet Street School.
School board member Marques-Aquil Lewis said the board voted against some leases because Anderson hadn’t provided information about agreements that allowed charters to share space with district school students this past year.
A School Built in the 1950's: Should It Stay or Should It Go?Davis Dunavin, Branford Patch
July 05, 2012
CONNECTICUT: It's been sitting, mostly ignored, at 80 Burban Drive for nearly two decades now. Built in the 1950s as part of a generation of schools that included Brushy Plain School (which became the Mary T. Murphy School) and Damascus School (renamed the Mary Tisko school in 1983), the Branford Hills School was last used as an elementary school in 1991. For a brief period in the 1990s, it was used by a technical school. Since then, it's still put to use, although not with great frequency. The School Aged Child Care program uses the spot for day care, Friends of the Library and BCTV use it for storage, and meetings and professional development seminars are irregularly held there. During elections, it serves as a polling place.
But the building is old and in need of repairs, including $350,000 in roof repairs. And those repairs will eventually have to be done -- or the Branford Hills School building will just have to go. As Branford Schools Facilities Director Mark Deming told the RTM education committee in May, the roof needs the repair funds as soon as possible. "From a maintenance standpoint, I can't keep it up for the next five years," he said. And as long as it belongs to the town, Branford taxpayers are paying for the building. A $15,000 building facilities study commissioned by the town should be out by the end of the summer, and it's expected to provide data that could ultimately settle the school's future.
On June 13, RTM members cut roof repairs for the Branford Hills School from a $2.05 million bond measure, thanks largely to a persuasive argument from RTM member Peter Black. Black said if Branford Hills had some merit -- historical or architectural, for example -- maybe it'd be worth keeping. "It looks like a prison. It's falling apart," Black told the RTM in June. "Maybe we could use this site for a senior center, but we'd probably have to raze the building." In a conversation with Patch, Black said Branford is a town with plenty of buildings and plenty of space. "I'm not sure anybody using the building now couldn't find somewhere better to go," he said. "We've got a lot of buildings, and the whole reason we commissioned this study is to find out which ones we want to keep and what we want to use them for." What do you think? Do you participate in activities that use the Branford Hills School? Do you have fond memories of the school? Or is it time for us to move on and repurpose the space?
Sacramento students identify energy-saving projects for schoolsMelody Gutierrez , Modesto Bee
July 05, 2012
CALIFORNIA: In an innovative program, the Sacramento City Unified School District is relying on its students' expertise to make its schools more energy efficient. The school district asked its students of all ages to become the experts by conducting "green audits" of their school facilities. "Our students went around and evaluated our schools to see where we needed to make changes," said Terry Smith, principal at O.W. Erlewine Elementary in Larchmont Riviera. "They came up with the list themselves."
Fourteen schools and the McClaskey Adult Center were awarded a combined $5 million in bond funding for their student-generated green school ideas as part of the district's program called Project Green. The $5 million was set aside out of remaining funding from the district's $225 million bond measure that passed in 2002. Students presented their ideas in April to a panel of local experts in architecture, engineering, energy and water management. "The kids spoke very knowledgably about their proposals," said district Trustee Patrick Kennedy. "It was very impressive." Last month, the student teams learned how much their projects would be awarded.
Washington Elementary in midtown Sacramento was awarded up to $550,000 following a presentation from students on the need for automatic hand dryers, chicken coops, rain barrels, upgraded irrigation, upgraded air conditioning, upgraded heating and a "restorative justice circle," a physical space where behaviors such as bullying are addressed. Other schools asked for projects ranging from replacing outdated windows to installing water-wise plumbing fixtures. O.W. Erlewine will receive up to $500,000 for automatic hand dryers, Energy Star refrigerators, Energy Star water heaters, solar tubes, upgraded irrigation, rain barrels, low-flow plumbing fixtures, dual flush toilets and dual pane windows.
Rosemont High School will receive up to $500,000 for a new pool pump, permanent recycling stations, recycling signage, upgraded irrigation, solar tubes, synthetic turf, low-flow fixtures and dual flush toilets. "I thought it was a brilliant way to use the funds that are fairly restrictive to make a statement about greening our district," said Allegra Alessandri, the principal at George Washington Carver High School, which will receive up to $400,000 for a system to catch rainwater. Work on some of the projects will begin this summer, said Farah McDill, who is on a three-year fellowship as sustainability coordinator at Sacramento City Unified. "(Students) kept it realistic to what their needs were," McDill said. "They weren't looking outside for glamorous green bling out there. They went for projects that would benefit their schools and that would change their learning environment."
Millions of dollars in construction projects under way at Rochester Public SchoolsMatthew Stoll, Post Bulletin
July 03, 2012
NEW YORK: It's a popular notion that Rochester schools become dark and abandoned places during the summer months. But they aren't. They become the locus of a different kind of activity. Once the students stream out, the construction workers stream in, beginning a remodeling process to upgrade, fix and modernize the area's schools and universities. And this summer, Rochester Public Schools and Rochester Community and Technical College will spend an estimated $11 million between them to keep their facilities maintained and up to date. That's on top of new projects planned for the area, including a new, $26 million Lourdes High School under construction and a new $8.7 million workforce center that will be attached to RCTC's Heintz Center. Groundbreaking for that building will begin in the fall.
"I would say the volume of projects going on right now is probably higher than average," said Shayn Jenssen, RCTC's facilities project manager about the $3.2 million in renovation activity taking place on campus. The biggest RCTC project is a $700,000 upgrade that will convert Coffman Hall's electrical system to one that runs off hot water supplied by the Olmsted County Waste-to-Energy facility. The conversion is expected to lower RCTC's energy bills. Rochester's public schools will also be undergoing an assortment of upgrades and makeovers. The biggest: a two-phased, $5.6 million renovation of Sunset Terrace Elementary School. Each year, school officials identify one or two schools to undergo major renovations based on the building's age and need. Next year it will be Gage and Ben Franklin elementary schools. The project at Sunset Terrace is focused on a major air quality upgrade. The two boilers that were first installed during the school's construction in 1966 will be replaced with two high efficiency boilers that run on natural gas rather than fuel oil. Rooftop units that circulate the air inside the school will also be replaced. Jim Kelly, the district's coordinator of design and construction, said the new mechanical system will be more energy-efficient, able to deliver and circulate air inside a classroom when it's occupied and dial down when empty. The savings in energy could amount to $20,000 to $25,000 a year, officials estimate.
Though the biggest project by far this summer, Sunset Terrace isn't the only school to undergo an upgrade. All of the district's 32 schools and properties will undergo some kind of repair, from blacktop repair at Bamber Valley Elementary School to door replacement at John Marshall High School to roof repair and parking lot re-striping at Mayo High School. The district intends to spend $7.5 million this summer on school improvement projects. "If you keep a building updated, the students will respect it more," Kelly said. "But if you let it deteriorate, then you're going to see vandalism. That's what we've seen."
Oregon school district aims to lower its energy billsDick Mason, The Observer
July 02, 2012
OREGON: Union High School’s classroom building, which features one of the most ornate building entrances in the region, was constructed in 1911, the same year electric starters replaced hand cranks in automobiles. Motor vehicles have come a long way since 1911. So has Union High School — in every way but energy efficiency. UHS’s classroom building has almost no insulation, an outdated heating system for the school’s gym wastes large amounts of energy and many other related problems exist. The issues explain why the Union School District has monthly energy bills that sometimes reach $10,000 during exceptionally cold winters.
The days of such five-figure bills, like the hand-crank automobile, may soon be only a memory. The district’s heating bills should drop significantly next winter because of the Oregon Department of Energy’s new Cool Schools program. Some $370,000 of work will be done at UHS and throughout the Union School District over the next six months to boost energy efficiency. The work will be financed by the Cool Schools program and likely will not cost the district any money over the long term in part because it will save the district about $31,000 a year in energy, operation and maintenance costs, said Beth Stewart, a member of the Union School Board. Stewart has been working with the Oregon Department of Energy since October to get her district involved in the Cool Schools program, created by the Legislature in 2011.
About $100,000 of the $370,000 of work to be done in the Union School District will be funded by tax credits. Schools, of course, do not pay taxes, but school districts in the Cool Schools program are eligible for tax credits, which would pay about 35 percent of their energy project costs. These tax credits are sold to businesses or individuals who pay districts 92 percent of what they are worth. The Union energy conservation project will also receive $38,000 from Avista Utilities and $7,000 from Oregon Trail Electric in energy conservation incentives. This money combined with the $100,000 from the tax credits will leave the Union School District with $225,000 to pay. This will be paid via a low interest loan provided by the Oregon Department of Energy. The interest rate for the loan will be 2.5 percent. Since money from the tax credits and Avista and OTEC will not be received until after the work is done, the loan the district will receive from the Oregon Department of Energy will be $370,000 and not $225,000. This loan will be paid down to $225,000 once money from the tax credits and Avista and OTEC energy incentives is received. Should the district pay an interest rate of 3 percent, the initial loan payments, set to paid over 15 years, would be $30,600 a year. The loan payments will be reduced significantly or the length of the payment period will be shortened once it is paid down to $225,000.
Stewart said the district needs to act promptly or the chance to take advantage of the Cool Schools program could be lost. “This is a window of opportunity we need to take advantage of. We don’t know if this (Cool Schools funding for energy conservation) will be available at this time next year.’’
A second reason to act promptly is that the pipes the school district uses to pump heat about 25 yards from the high school to its gym are aging and could begin breaking down. “They are at the end of their life,’’ Stewart said. The pipes will not be needed once the energy efficiency work is done because a separate heating system for the gym will be installed as part of the energy project. It will be a gas-fired, forced-air heating system in the gym building. Presently the gym is heated by a boiler which also heats the high school. This system is inefficient because it uses heat generated in a boiler at UHS. This heat is pumped more than 25 yards underground to the gym. So much heat escapes from the uninsulated pipes that it melts the snow and ice on the pavement above them in the winter.
This system is also inefficient because the boiler heats both the high school and the gym. Heat can not be diverted to only the gym or the high school. Since more energy is needed to heat the gym than the high school, the boiler is often running at times when the high school does not need additional heat. Classrooms in the UHS classroom building are often raised to uncomfortably hot temperatures each winter as a result. Stewart said students often wear shirtsleeve shirts in the winter and teachers open classroom windows. Once the gas-fired forced air heating system in the high school gym is installed, the boiler at UHS will be replaced with a smaller efficient one. The gas-fired, forced air heating system in the high school gym and the new UHS boiler are two of 18 projects the Cool Schools project will cover in the Union School District. The projects were selected based on the results of energy audits by the state and Sharpe Energy Solutions of Ashland. A portion of the other 16 energy conservation projects that will be completed over the next six months include the: • installation of a new hot water system in the high school gym and low flow shower heads in the locker rooms. • installation of a new high-efficiency water heater and commercial water softener in the S.E. Miller building. • installation of weatherstripping where needed on the school district campus. • the updating of temperature controls in the S.E. Miller and Hutchinson buildings. • sealing off the classroom vent to the uninsulated attic in the Hutchinson building. • the retrofitting of exterior and interior lighten fixtures. • the sealing off of old classroom vents to the uninsulated hallway attic in the S.E. Miller building. • the sealing off of closet cavities that are open to the uninsulated attic in the Hutchinson building.
College campuses' climate lessons for companiesJoel Makower, GreenBiz
July 02, 2012
NATIONAL: For the past five years, a quiet efficiency revolution has been taking place on more than 600 college campuses. It offers potential lessons for companies on how a sector can simultaneously compete and collaborate to achieve ever higher levels of environmental success.
A group called the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which began in 2007 with a dozen schools, now boasts 675 institutions representing a third of the entire U.S. college and university student population. Each has signed a commitment to take specific steps “in pursuit of climate neutrality.” Those actions include completing a comprehensive inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, developing an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral and choosing other tangible actions from a menu, from sustainable purchasing to waste minimization.
There are several things going on here that are relevant to the business sector, in particular to trade associations, chambers of commerce, and other conglomerations of companies. Here are four: Consistency, but flexibility. In ACUPCC’s scheme, all schools make the same core commitments, but each has some ability for craft the program to their needs — for example, to create their own climate neutrality date and emissions target based on what they think they can do, and on their individual circumstances, such as local climate, utility prices, and age of buildings.
Mandatory reporting. All of the 600+ institutions are required to publish a report, and the reports are available centrally from ACUPCC’s website. This engenders accountability, of course, but also momentum: Each of the schools can see the progress the others are making.
Peer-to-peer learning. Given that the various colleges and universities are more alike than different, there’s a lot they can learn from one another. One of the great resources is institutional knowledge. ACUPCC created a peer-to-peer program of recently retired presidents of colleges and universities that serve as the peer mentors to the current presidents that have signed the commitment. Next year, ACUPCC plans to do the same thing with business officers and chief academic officers. Says Cortese: “We think that the peer-to-peer learning is one of the most effective and the fastest way to get this kind of social innovation occurring.”
Greening the curriculum. The ACUPCC program could have stopped at the greening of the academic institutions’ operations, but it didn’t. It also has an effort to work with faculty from different disciplines to help them understand the social, economic, and ecological challenges around sustainability, and to modify their existing courses or develop new ones. More than 100 colleges and universities are involved in such efforts, says Cortese. Over the next five years, he says, the group will build a network “of all the provosts and the deans of the colleges and universities across the country so that they can understand how different schools who have tried to do this, and how they can make modifications in tenure and promotions and create incentives in the different disciplines to incorporate this kind of knowledge.”
The Plumosa School of the Arts Earns Prestigious LEED Gold CertificationPress Release, Virtual Strategy Magazine
July 02, 2012
FLORIDA: Suffolk Construction announced that Plumosa School of the Arts has been awarded LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The LEED rating-system certifications are awarded to projects based on performance and energy usage, sustainable features, innovative design for new or existing buildings and other green criteria.
Plumosa, located in Delray Beach, is one of the first elementary schools in South Florida with a dedicated curriculum for the Arts. The project built for the School District of Palm Beach County, included the renovation and addition to the existing Atlantic High School campus. The new 92,000 square foot 704-station elementary school included extensive modernization and preservation planning of the 640-seat auditorium. Through an intensive team effort, the project which wasn’t originally designated for certification, earned the impressive level of LEED Gold certification. During the project planning and design stages, the School District had mandated all projects moving forward would be required to apply for LEED Silver. So Suffolk Construction, along with the design team of Tercilla Courtemanche Architects, reviewed the project and the traditional USGBC point system for opportunities to create sustainable strategies for the project. Some of the elements implemented included low-flow plumbing and motion light sensors throughout reducing water usage and creating energy savings.
Since the project was located on such a large site, the team chose specific indigenous plants and grasses in the landscape that didn’t require irrigation; thus saving water usage. Other areas that increased the project’s performance included that fact it was developed on a Brownfield site; which enabled the use of a site which in the past would have been overlooked. Through shared parking with the adjacent City of Delray Swimming Complex the Project Team minimized adding parking spaces which helps to reduce the island heat effect created from asphalted parking areas. The project team determined they would ensure the use of regional materials for the project as well as taking advantage of programs such as Renewable Energy Credits and Certified Woods. As a method to prevent increasing wasted materials, the old asphalt that was demolished was re-used. During the demolition, instead of sending the crushed asphalt to the landfill, they worked with Waste Management to repurpose for base course to stabilize the new parking lots.
The School District and the faculty at Plumosa, through their dedication to sustainability, created a ‘green’ curriculum to give students a better understanding of the green ideas that improve the performance of their own school. Since Plumosa is a school of the arts, their green curriculum also incorporates art education as best exemplified in the Teaching Garden. The garden, a miniature version of the school with its different buildings and structures, is oriented in the same direction as the actual school. The students can interact with the garden structure to learn about how orientation of the building can be affected by the sun; how a cistern works; scale and placement, and impact of native plants and shrubbery.
Wyoming legislators voice concerns about school construction processElysia Conner, Star-Tribune
July 01, 2012
WYOMING: Wyoming lawmakers talked about “analysis paralysis” and “red tape” as they discussed concerns about the school construction approval process with representatives of the Wyoming Schools Facility Department early last week.
Schools with approved funding await groundbreaking across the state, but they are hung up in the pre-construction process, some members of the Legislature's Select School Facilities Committee told SFD representatives Wednesday. During a discussion with the SFD about funding and construction timelines, committee members including Rep. Gregg Blikre, R-Gillette, and Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, cited constituents’ concerns about the delays.
SFD Director Ian Catellier agreed that schools must be built in a timely fashion. “This is not something we take lightly,” Catellier said. “We work very hard each day getting the projects under contract and being built. It’s not a simple process and there are many complicating factors and we address those as they come up. We strive to get our projects on the ground just as quickly as we can.” Some of the complications and challenges facing the SFD have come from actions taken by the Legislature, Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said after the meeting. Several changes in state statute in the past two years placed a greater burden on the SFD, according to Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper. Those changes also cleared up vague statutes that left wide room for interpretation and therefore caused disputes and delays, he added after the meeting. Adding to the SFD’s workload, the organization also switched from an independent commission to an agency under the governor in the past two years. “We’re really appreciative, they’ve (the SFD members) done a herculean amount of work,” Harshman said. “We’ve kind of gotten over the hump … of getting everything squared away. Now it’s time to really get moving.” "I think they will get things moving now that we've given them the direction to do so," Rothfuss said. To meet new state statutes passed in the legislative session last spring, the SFD adopted new methods of calculating student enrollment and building capacity. The SFD reviewed with the committee the new methods, which use 10 years of data to predict how many students would enroll in a new school five years from the date it opens its doors. The purpose of the Wednesday’s meeting was for the SFD and its consultants to present the new enrollment calculation method to the legislative committee, according to Catellier.
The legislators and the SFD also discussed school capacity needs, including a new method of evaluating functional capacity, which involves taking into account scheduling factors when calculating the amount of a building being used at any given time, according to Catellier. New state statutes required a new method to analyze all spaces in schools by the individual student, according to Stan Hobbs, planning administrator for the SFD. School districts statewide are measuring spaces in each school so the SFD and consultants can determine how classroom spaces correspond to their uses and student populations. Legislators plan to further examine existing school capacity in Wyoming and how to use capacity evaluations when prioritizing school construction and renovation. Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, and other legislators commented on increased transparency in the SFD and voiced appreciation for the department's work. “Now we all know what the rules of the game are and we’re all going to be consistent,” Harshman said. Referring to the school districts in the state, he added, “I think that’s the key when you have 48 different customers.”
Pittsburgh school districts receive reprieve on constructionBrian C. Rittmeyer, Tribune
July 01, 2012
PENNSYLVANIA: A change to Gov. Corbett's proposed state budget could save the Kiski Area School District from losing upwards of $240,000 each year for the next 25 years. That's how much administrators were saying the moratorium on state payments to school districts for building projects would have cost. But in the run-up to the Saturday deadline for state lawmakers to approve a budget, the Senate's Education Committee approved an amendment assuring that projects already in the state's review and approval process will not be impacted by the moratorium. "It sounds like we missed the bullet," Kiski Area School Board President Bob Keibler said. Armstrong School District's extensive construction plans also were endangered but now appear to be OK. Freeport Area and Highlands, which have been considering building plans, won't be affected, officials said.
Under the amendment, the state Education Department would be limited from accepting or approving school building construction or reconstruction project applications received after Oct. 1. School districts get state reimbursement money for building projects through an 11-step process. Under Corbett's original proposal, a project would have had to have reached the eighth step to receive reimbursement, said Tim Eller, an Education Department spokesman. In addition to saving money, the moratorium is meant to give time for the state to review the process and the state's role in it, Eller said. Corbett proposed keeping funding for reimbursements flat, about $300 million. Groups including the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials opposed the moratorium. "Districts went into this building and renovation process in good faith that their costs would be reimbursed to them if they follow all the steps," school boards association spokesman Steve Robinson said. "In the middle of the game, they're being told that may not be the case." Because poorer districts get more aid from the state, they would have been more adversely affected, Robinson said.
While the amendment is good news for districts already in the construction planning pipeline, limitations on new projects could still prove problematic, he said. "That's of concern to districts that are thinking about or maybe don't have a choice if they have a leaking roof or structural issues that have to be dealt with," Robinson said. "They'll need to think the process through if state reimbursement isn't there (about) how they will pay for these needed repairs."