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Department Begins Funding Urgent School Repair Program

The U.S. Department of Education began the distribution of funds in July under the $1.2 billion urgent school repair and renovation grant program authorized by Congress in December last year.

Sylvia Wright, director of Educational Technology, Facilities, and Partnership Programs in the department, said school districts seeking assistance under the program should contact their state education agency. Information about the program and the responsible state officials can be found on the department's web site.

The program is designed to help local school districts make urgent school repairs and renovations and to help meet expenses for renovations related to special education or technology needs. The funds will be distributed to states based on Title 1 grant shares.

States will distribute 75 percent of their allocation of funds to local school districts for urgent school repairs, but may use 25 percent for special education or technology expenses. These grants are to be awarded competitively, based on student age population; need for school repairs; fiscal capacity to meet repair needs; and likelihood that the district would properly maintain repaired school facilities.

Funds may be used for repairs and renovations that ensure the health and safety of students and staff. Projects could include repairing, replacing or installing roofs, electrical wiring, plumbing systems, sewage systems, heating, ventilation or air conditioning systems, or bringing schools into compliance with fire and safety codes, to make school facilities accessible in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and for asbestos abatement.

There is a great backlog of school repairs needed in districts across the country. Estimates of needed repairs range up to $200 billion.