The Rockford School Board tonight approved an updated 10-year facilities plan based on in-depth analysis and community input to improve the RPS 205 elementary school footprint. The amended plan costs $250 million and includes building two new schools and 13 additions, and closing eight schools.
Plans have gone through several revisions based on feedback from more than 40 community meetings. Contingent on voter approval in a November referendum, new schools will be built to consolidate Kishwaukee and Nelson into one building, and Thompson, White Swan and Cherry Valley into a second new building. Sites for the new buildings have not yet been announced.
The elementary footprint would shrink to 29 schools by closing eight schools: Cherry Valley Elementary; Dennis Early Childhood Center; King Elementary; Kishwaukee Elementary; Nelson Elementary; Thompson Elementary; Walker Elementary; and White Swan Elementary. The Renaissance Gifted Academy will move to a campus in the city's northwest. The elementary gifted students would attend school in the Haight building (where Montessori's elementary programming is now housed) with Thurgood Marshall School housing the upper grade levels. The Montessori program (Pre-K through eighth grades) would move to Marsh Elementary School, where an addition would be built. Washington School, which today houses the elementary gifted program, would become a zone elementary school. Beyer Elementary School will transition to serve prekindergarten students as an Early Childhood Center.
The plan was formally presented to the School Board July 8, and a public meeting to review the plan was held July 22. The approved plan also directs the administration to:
- Set a construction schedule for building new schools based on the educational needs and the financial condition of the entire District. The District will not incur any costs to build new schools until:
-Voters pass a referendum supporting construction of one or more new schools;
-The Facilities Plan Oversight Committee issues a full report and recommendation on how the facilities plan will be accomplished within the allocated budget. That report and recommendation must be presented to, and approved by, the Board at the Board’s first meeting in December 2015;
-The administration makes a presentation on the final audited FY15 budget results, in conjunction with the report and recommendation by the Facilities Plan Oversight Committee. That presentation must be in conjunction with a review of the District’s projected budget needs over the remainder of the facilities plan;
- Name or re-name (as applicable) the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School,” and asks that this name be considered under Board Policy 4.152.
- Present a budget to the Board for new classroom furniture for all of the District’s schools as needed.
- Identify funds to complete the additional deferred maintenance, as identified in the facilities plan (i.e., currently estimated at $16 million).
- Present a budget and make recommendations to the Board for the demolition or disposal of any buildings not covered by the facilities plan that are owned by the District and for which the administration determines the District has no expected use within the foreseeable future.
- Continue to explore ways to air condition school buildings in the District that do not have central air conditioning and to explore opportunities outside the facilities plan (grants or otherwise) for adding air conditioning to those schools.
Superintendent Ehren Jarrett thanked the community for working with the administration to develop this updated facilities plan, especially the volunteers on the Facilities Task Force Steering Committee.
“I’m proud that the community showed so much support and interest during this process in doing what’s best for our community and our students,” Jarrett said. “I’m happy the School Board recognized all the hard work that went into this process, and I’m looking forward to seeing the improvements. For months we’ve been saying we have to give our students a better place to learn and our staff a better place to work. This plan will accomplish that.”
The plan – specifically building new schools – hinges on whether voters approve a referendum in November. The plan does not require a tax increase, but a Nov. 4 referendum will ask permission to use existing or anticipated money to build new schools. If the referendum is approved, site acquisition and construction will begin, consistent with the priorities provided in the plan approved tonight. The referendum language is as follows: “Shall the Board of Education of Rockford School District Number 205, Winnebago and Boone Counties, Illinois, build and equip one or more school buildings and use funds existing in the Capital Projects Fund for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?”
The plan also outlines a tentative construction schedule, which will be shared with staff, parents and the community in the coming weeks.