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Articles: Facilities

At Bee Cave Elementary School, students gather around the teacher for story time in one small space, allowing the school to save energy and money in areas of the room that don’t need lighting.

Lighting is often the overlooked energy hog in the room—accounting for 26 percent of the energy used in a typical school. Retrofitting lighting can reduce that by as much as 50 percent, and it's is often simpler and less expensive than upgrading HVAC systems, producing a quick return on investment.

High school student interns at Frederick County Public Schools interview a teacher to learn pros and cons of the district’s next textbook adoption process.

Teaching research skills once meant asking students to turn stacks of library books into essays on the poetry of Emily Dickinson or the causes of the Civil War. But today, it’s just as likely to mean asking second-graders to design a museum exhibit on the physics of flight or encouraging a 10th-grader to make the case for backyard chicken coops.

Elementary students from P.S. 41 in New York City Public Schools record observations on the green roof during class. The roof was the first official NYC Greenroof Environmental Literacy Laboratory installed in the city. (Photo: Vicki Sando)
The P.S. 442 green roof requires little maintenance after the first year of planting. (Photo: ©2015 Ari Burling Photography)
Students from P.S. 442 in Brooklyn grow grapes on the roof along with flowers and other plants.
A bee pollinates a flower on the green roof at P.S. 442, also in New York City Public Schools.

Learning to grow vegetables and flowers. Digging in the dirt. Understanding how seasons affect plants. Such learning experiences for students come with a green school roof.

Promoting green school roofs is part of New York City’s larger mission to combat air pollution, conserve energy and reduce the amount of stormwater flowing into sewers and waterways.

Green roofs also reduce the need for air conditioning, thus lessening the “urban heat island” effect—a phenomenon in which concentrated human activity and energy use make metropolitan areas hotter.

The many requirements for becoming a school bus driver may deter people from entering the field.

Several months into the school year, many districts nationwide still face the worst bus driver shortage in recent years. Some are offering signing bonuses and increased wages to attract more people to the job.

Only 6 percent of school bus contracting companies nationally had enough drivers this year, compared to 15 percent with no shortage in 2014, according to a survey from School Bus Fleet magazine. Nearly 30 percent of respondents said they had a “severe or desperate” shortage of bus drivers this year.

A bright new classroom space welcomes students with books and Snoopy of the Peanuts gang.
The completed magnet school in September features the name “Victoria Soto School” on the exterior panels.
A view of the new elementary school playground that includes slides and monkey bars.

December 14, 2012 is a day of tragedy that claimed the lives of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old first grade teacher who died trying to protect her students, has been honored by her hometown of Stratford, Connecticut, with the a newly constructed $18 million magnet elementary school bearing her name.

Students from Burton Hill Elementary School, part of Forth Worth ISD in Texas, get hands-on learning opportunities for all academic subjects using an outdoor garden and classroom.
Nationwide, some 94 percent of teachers in the school garden program reported seeing increased engagement from their students.
Burton Hill Elementary teachers attend professional development sessions to learn how to connect their lessons to activities in their school garden.
Over the past 12 years, REAL School Gardens has worked with more than 100 schools and trained 3,500 teachers.

School gardens used for instruction are on the rise nationwide, and with them, student engagement and test scores, according to a recent study.

The nonprofit REAL School Gardens works with corporations to build outdoor classrooms at low-income schools. The gardens include 150 square feet of vegetable beds, perennial and herb beds, rainwater collection systems, composting bins, earth science stations, and animal habitats.

Sandy Grove Middle School’s solar panels sit on the roof.
An interior hallway. More than 80 percent of the building’s light fixtures are LED, supplied by Cree.
Students can work in a new laboratory facility to analyze the school’s energy performance.
A media center leads to a hallway with natural light.

Sandy Grove Middle School, part of Hoke County Schools in North Carolina, is the first energy-positive school in the nation to be financed by its own expected energy savings.

The 74,000-square-foot school opened to students in fall 2013, and was designed as a net-zero facility that produces more energy than it consumes. It will also meet LEED Gold standards.

At Columbus City Schools, Steve Simmons, director of pupil transportation, can see every move a school bus makes on its trip to picking up students at stops, and dropping them off.

GPS and automated route systems, among other advancements, make bus service more efficient and effective. Despite heightened demands on school transportation in recent years—such as safety and expanded bell times—district administrators and transportation managers can cut costs while creating safe and convenient routes.

Some of the latest software solutions monitor applications for free meals and track federal and state reimbursement reports for the National School Lunch Program.

Serving meals in schools has changed dramatically over the last few decades.

Many students suffer food allergies, and others don’t have enough money in their lunch account.

Granbury ISD students celebrate the groundbreaking of a high school remodel that includes a new ninth grade wing and a fine arts center expansion.
 Granbury ISD’s remodel includes a new ninth grade wing and a fine arts center expansion.
Granbury ISD’s high school renovation project is projected to be completed in August.
A renovated Methuen High School, part of Methuen Public Schools in Massachusetts, features a new auditorium.
Fluvanna County Public Schools in Virginia built a new state-of-the-art high school due to both aging facilities and enrollment growth.

State-of-the-art science labs, green buildings and internet upgrades are among major trends in school construction this year, as districts break ground on large projects that address aging facilities, increased enrollment and technology needs, according to the first annual DA School Construction Survey.

Students in Baltimore City Public Schools now receive free breakfast and lunch every day under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Community Eligibility Provision.

To expand food service, the district took advantage of funding through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program that launched in 2011 allowing schools with high poverty rates to replace traditional, tiered-price meal programs.

Students from Richard J. Lee Elementary School, part of Coppell ISD in Dallas, have a lesson in the school garden.

Districts recovering from the recession and in need of new buildings and renovations can save money over time by building net-zero energy schools, architects say.

Hacienda La Puente USD in California signed a five-year, $5.3 million energy savings performance contract in part to upgrade exterior lighting at four high schools.

New partnerships between districts and energy service companies provide much-needed funding for school sustainability upgrades that can range from installing efficient lighting to renovating entire buildings.

Energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) allow school leaders and other public agencies to complete energy-savings projects without upfront capital costs.

San Diego USD's new football stadium includes synthetic turf and an all-weather track. The field is surrounded by new bleachers, which seat nearly 1,580 on the home side and 880 on the visitor’s side.
Kearny High School Principal Ana Diaz-Booz speaks to students and guests at the new facilities dedication ceremony in April.
An aerial view of the new baseball stadium.
The new weight room and attached concession stand.

San Diego USD student athletes now play in a new football stadium, baseball field, track and other sports facilities as an $11 million improvement project was completed in April.

The project’s funding came from Proposition Z, San Diego USD’s general obligation bond passed by voters in 2012, as well as from the State Schools Facilities Funds. Construction began in winter 2014.

Teachers from Perry Township Schools in Indiana use their school library’s makerspace to create T-shirts for Dr. Seuss Read Across America Day.
Perry Township students use a 3D printer in the library’s makerspace.

Transforming school libraries into communal learning “playgrounds” offers students technology support, remote access to research resources and expanded opportunities for creative exploration. One of the biggest trends is “makerspaces” where students use their imaginations to create crafts, electronics, videos and other projects.