One of my fondest memories at the Rockford Public Schools was Election Night a year ago. By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Rockford voters approved spending $139 million to make our schools 21st Century learning environments.
Nationally – and in the history of this community -- such a show of support is rare.
We are now in a process to make sure the investment is as sound as can be. Together with consultant DLR Group, we will assure our schools work as well for students and staff 20 years from now as they do now.
About $32 million in construction is nearly complete. We are aligning form with function. We are leaving a smaller footprint. We are making sure our spaces are flexible.
It’s all thanks to you.
We have a showcase for high school redesign at Jefferson High School, with a generous assist from Sharefest volunteers. We have more secure entryways and sparkling production kitchens at elementary schools. We paved areas that desperately needed it.
We multi-tasked our facilities by creating more flexible spaces -- such as a new field house at Auburn High School that will include classrooms as well as athletic and fitness venues.
The School Board has pledged $30 million in budget reserves and $14 million in life safety bonds to supplement the money the voters approved. The board might assign additional funds from reserves as well. Before we’re finished, we will have spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
Here’s a look at what’s done and what we hope to complete next month:
Johnson, Conklin and Lathrop elementary schools: New entryways, security vestibules, resource rooms, cafeteria additions and production kitchens
East High School: New energy-efficient windows to replace the school’s original single-pane windows
Froberg Elementary School: New security vestibule, gymnasium, conversion of the existing gym into a cafeteria and four new classrooms
Spring Creek Elementary School: New cafeteria, front-entry vestibule, boiler room, storage space and ADA accessibility
McIntosh Elementary School: New cafeteria and two new classrooms for art and music
Brookview, Froberg, Rolling Green, Spring Creek and Whitehead elementary schools; Flinn, Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall and West middle schools; and Jefferson High School: Paving
Our School Board has formed a special facilities committee. We are continuing to host facilities focus groups, hearing from students, parents, teachers and community members about what they want and need in the schools.
We know we need spaces friendly to modern educational methods. We also know what’s modern today might not be modern in 10 -- or even 5 -- years.
It’s a tough act. To get it right, we need help. We need to stretch our dollars and our imaginations to make sure our students are college- and career-ready.
Please go to rps205.com or click on this link to see the impressive work done so far.
And please: Continue to work alongside us to meet a top priority -- creating the 21st century learning environments our Rockford Public Schools students deserve.
Dr. Ehren Jarrett
Superintendent, Rockford Public Schools