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Articles: Facilities

Three of nine school buildings that have won the latest Educational Facility Design Awards from the American Institute of Architects' Committee on Architecture for Education stand out from the crowd of other school buildings because they are sustainable and are connected to the nature that surrounds them. The awards program is designed to identify trends and emerging ideas, honor excellence in planning and design, and disseminate knowledge about best practices in educational and community facilities, according to the AIA.

When we hear about school shootings, we typically think of them occurring in schools—not at school board meetings. But that was not the case on Dec. 14, when 56-year-old Clay Duke fired multiple shots at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members during an afternoon meeting of the Bay County (Fla.) School District in Panama City.

Anyone who doubts that adjusting thermostats or turning off computers can make much of a dent in utility bills should have a chat with administrators of the Council Rock School District in Bucks County, Pa. In the past four years, thanks to comprehensive policies and procedures, CRSD has cut energy usage by nearly 50 percent and achieved more than $9 million in total savings. The 12,000- student district has been honored for its practices with federal EPA-sponsored Energy Star awards three years in a row.

Closure of an interstate highway means many things: traffic backups, lengthy detours, confusing back roads, and a constant headache for the frequent traveler. But what does it mean for school buses when the dependable flow of interstate traffic is the lifeblood for an entire transportation operation?

That's exactly the question the St. Louis-based Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC) had to address when the Missouri Department of Transportation announced the two-step closure of a 10-mile stretch of I-64, five miles per year from January 2008 through December 2009.

When President Obama first signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he took much criticism for spending more money—$787 billion more—when the nation was reeling from decades-old debt, a more than 9 percent unemployment rate and a mortgage crisis. But this measure has allowed public school district leaders to invest in cost-effective, energy-efficient facilities projects faster than they would have if they didn't have the federal funds.

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.

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

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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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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