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Articles: Facilities

The newly opened South Warren (Ky.) Middle and High School is is the largest insulated concrete form building in the nation.

For almost 30 years, thousands of Los Angeles Unified School students in the Mid-Wilshire district have been waking up early to be bused to schools farther away in their district. As of Sept. 13, those students are within walking distance of their new school complex, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools. The complex cost $578 million, which makes it the most expensive school in LAUSD and perhaps the country. It contains six pilot schools for elementary through high school students at the site of the former Ambassador Hotel.

In the spring of 2007, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana made the first call. Gov. Kathleen Blanco made the next call. And Louisiana's state superintendent of schools, Paul Pastorek, made the final pitch. The trio wanted to know if Paul Vallas, the renowned CEO of the School District of Philadelphia, would make a move to New Orleans to oversee the most troubled campuses in the state and arguably in the nation.

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To date, empirical research of the participation of school district central offices in school improvement efforts has primarily highlighted how central office staff, despite their best efforts, often fail to foster teaching and learning improvement. As a result, central office leaders are left with a heap of examples of what not to do, but few guides for what should be done.

Text messaging while driving in Lee County (Fla.) Public Schools is prohibited. It is the first district in Florida— and possibly the nation—to keep its policies caught up with the technology.

In March 2010, the Lee County Board of Education amended the district vehicle policy to prohibit employees from text messaging while driving a district vehicle or while driving a personally-owned vehicle on district business. The district has 12,000 employees and a fleet of over 650 school buses.

In a first-of-its-kind move, three school districts in Illinois have bonded together to be in the business of wind power. Their joint project not only could benefit the environment but could save millions of dollars.

The bus driver overheard a middle school student say as he was walking off the bus at the end of the day, "I am going to get several of you tomorrow on the bus and blow you away for making fun of me."

Two New Hampshire school systems, the Pembroke School District and Winnisquam Regional School District (WRS D), are reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by transitioning to biomass- fueled plants to heat their two largest facilities. Partnering with Honeywell, a private energy technology manufacturer, the districts will save an estimated $3.7 million combined over the next 15 years by switching to plants that burn wood chips. The Pembroke District completed its first phase in 2008, and WRS D expects its plant to be completed by fall.

In what is its third and final phase of an ambitious plan to renovate their district, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) will be putting the final touches on 25 refurbished buildings that the district expects will receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification seal of approval. IPS, encompassing 65 schools and over 34,000 students, began its comprehensive sustainability project in 2001 to update infrastructure and reduce energy costs.

For those districts seeking to construct, renovate, rehabilitate or acquire land, the National Education Technology Funding Corporation, or "Eddie Tech," has made an innovative program to simplify the process of accessing low-cost financing. Eddie Tech's School Investment Pooled-Securities (SIPS) Program is bringing together tax-credit Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs) and creating larger and more marketable collections that are more desirable for investors.

The very tragic death of a Connecticut teenager involved in a school bus accident has reopened debate about the merits of seat belts on school buses. On January 9, Vikas Parikh, a 16-year-old student at Rocky Hill (Conn.) High School, died from a traumatic head injury when his school bus struck another car and plunged down an embankment.

Proving once again to be a leader in school technology, the Vail (Ariz.) School District is now providing wireless access in school buses. In early December 2009, the district installed its first wireless router attached to a cellular 3G network in one high school bus. Although the district paid for this out of pocket, officials hope to obtain a $15,000 Qwest Foundation Grant from Qwest Communications to fund routers in the 20 buses that run the longest high school routes.

On April 7, 2009, as the nation agonized over a worsening economy, voters in western Wisconsin's Elk Mound Area School District passed a $9.3 million referendum to upgrade its three aging, overcrowded schools. On that same day, similar referendums in surrounding school districts failed. How did Elk Mound, a rural community without even a local newspaper, convince voters to address the needs of students?

Serving meals and snacks at school is fraught with politics and pitfalls. While the battle rages in school cafeterias over menu choices, beverage sales, vending foods, and outright bans on what students can buy or even bring to school, there is some good news. More school districts are reducing the number of fried foods, increasing the levels of fruits and vegetables, and paying attention to fat, calories and the sugar content of the meals they serve.

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