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Articles: Facilities

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.

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?

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.

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.

John Long, superintendent of the Warren County R-III School District in Missouri, knew that one of the school campuses was badly in need of an upgrade.

Education funding cuts in this tough economy mean current students may once again tell their grandchildren, “When I was your age, I had to walk to school uphill—both ways.”

For example, a budget shortfall in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Texas means that students living inside a two-mile radius of its 81 campuses will walk or carpool to school.

“We’re not cutting fat,” says Kelli Duram, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District assistant superintendent for communication. “We’re cutting into bone marrow now.”

It’s easy to Miss Evander Childs High School in the north Bronx these days. Although the 100-year-old building fills an entire city block, its four floors are shrouded top-to-bottom in a dark mesh curtain covering the scaffolding from which workers are replacing the exterior brick by brick.

For many schools, “Going Green” once meant turning out the lights after leaving the classroom, filling the recycle bins, and celebrating Earth Day. Not anymore. Although such activities remain staples of environmentally conscious school systems, that consciousness has exploded in an era of high energy prices, global warming threats, and multiplying concerns about the health of students in today’s school buildings.

If the schools in your district are like most in the United States, there is a good chance that today’s lunch features pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets or maybe hamburgers with processed cheese. Is serving these types of foods really in the best interest of our children’s health? Common sense says no, as do the statistics, which are startling.

Northern California native Jim Rowan is passionate about food. A self-taught chef, Rowan had his own catering business, cooked in resorts and hotels, and was a private chef before becoming culinary director at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. But in July 2008, Rowan made the switch from higher ed to K12. He is now the food service director at Astoria (Ore.) School District and Naselle-Grays River Valley (Wash.) School District, which use Chartwells as their food service provider.