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Articles: Facilities

Three-quarters of respondents to a DA survey reported some degree of construction plans for the coming year. (Click to enlarge)

The encouraging sounds of construction will be heard at many schools in 2015 as districts are finding the funding to build new facilities and to give facelifts to aging campuses, according to a DA survey of K12 leaders.

Three-quarters of respondents have construction plans for the coming year, with 40 percent expecting to launch building or renovation projects. About a third of the respondents, 34 percent, said they have plans to repair or replace infrastructure.

Three quarters of respondents to a DA survey said funding for their district would increase or stay the same in 2015. (Click to enlarge graphic)

Navigating turbulent waters of uncertain budgets, district leaders have a great challenge: Answer the growing push for accountability and heightened community expectations in 2015.

San Diego USD’s Language Academy dedicated its newly revitalized campus in July, complete with new environmentally-friendly classrooms and schoolwide air conditioning.

The Language Academy is a multicultural K8 school that offers bilingual immersion courses in English, Spanish and French. Students also gain knowledge of the history and culture of the language they study. At the ceremony, students led the Pledge of Allegiance in each language.

Second-graders at Walker Elementary School in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District use Follett’s Destiny Quest mobile app to locate digital resources in libraries and on Follett Shelf.

Taking away clerical work such as manual card cataloging and checking out books means librarians can spend more time working with students on research skills and digital literacy. With today’s automation software, librarians can give book recommendations and users need only a single portal to search for digital and print resources.

Different bins in nearly 750 New York City schools help students separate organic waste for composting.

If compost can make it there, it can make it anywhere.

In an effort to reduce its garbage footprint, the New York City Department of Education has partnered with the Department of Sanitation to launch its Organic Waste Collection Program in the city’s schools.

The effort was inspired by a 2012 self-funded pilot program organized by a handful of PTAs in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, says John Shea, chief executive officer at the New York City Department of Education.

The beginning of the school year brings new construction projects in many districts, including Rockford Public Schools in Illinois and North Shore Central School District in New York.

At Rockford Public Schools, a district of 28,000 students in Illinois, all four of the district’s high schools were under heavy construction over the summer that will continue throughout the school year.

Starting this fall, all meals at 35 Des Moines schools will be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More than half of Des Moines’ 60 public schools will soon offer free breakfast and lunch for about 17,000 students without them having to apply for it.

Joplin Public Schools in Missouri opened the doors to the brand new Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center on Aug. 25.

The original high school, along with a technical school, two elementary schools and a middle school, was destroyed in May 2011 after a tornado devastated the area.

Administrators budgeting for construction have the tools and access to ensure their buildings’ shells—the roofs, windows and insulation—are energy-efficient and easy to maintain. There are many issues to consider—here are some guidelines.

Though physical book collections are shrinking in many districts, the role of librarians or media specialists is expanding.

About one-third of public schools do not have a full-time, state-certified librarian.

Members of the American Library Association call it a national crisis, as colleges and careers increasingly require students to have expansive digital literacy skills. Some 20 percent of public school libraries do not have any full- or part-time state-certified librarians, according to a 2013 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

A synthetic field at Asbury Park High School at Asbury Park Public Schools in New Jersey, by FieldTurf, is one of various fields that needs regular maintenance and care.

Installing a synthetic-surface athletic field can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Any school district that invests in one and then treats it as a maintenance-free luxury may end up spending a lot more money on repairs and replacements.

There are few universal answers to maintaining natural-grass athletic fields. The specifics and the costs vary widely based on region, altitude, frequency of use and the type of grass under the cleats.

Safety, flexibility and energy efficiency are the forces driving new school construction as administrations create buildings to rival college facilities to prepare students for the technology-driven world they will find in college and the workforce.

A tornado safe room under construction in Moore, Oklahoma.

Tornadoes sweeping through parts of the nation and destroying schools are leading district leaders to create “safe rooms” for increased protection.

In May 2013, Moore, Okla., was hit by a tornado that destroyed two elementary schools and killed seven students. Moore Public Schools is rebuilding the schools with four safe rooms designed to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria to provide protection during tornadoes.

With new, smarter building technology to control energy use, school leaders can reduce their carbon footprint and use the money saved to fund projects that may have suffered from budget cuts. U.S. schools spend more on energy than they do “on computers and textbooks combined,” according to a past report by Energy Star.

“As much as 30 percent of a district’s total energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily,” the report states.