The Rockford School Board tonight directed the administration to continue its plan to build two new elementary schools, part of a 10-year facilities plan to upgrade RPS 205 buildings and shrink the district’s footprint.
Administrators, staff and the community have waited more than a year for this vote, which was the final step needed to implement the district’s 10-year facilities plan. The motion was amended to ensure construction follows the proposed time frame; that deferred maintenance and new furniture needs will be funded and met; that educational and operational needs will be met; regular reports will be provided on the facilities plan implementation; and annual reports will be provided on budget development and progress as these conditions are met. The School Board approved the motion 6-1.
The School Board approved an updated 10-year facilities plan in August 2014, based on in-depth analysis and community input. That plan called for the closure of eight buildings and the construction of 13 elementary school additions and two new schools. As part of the plan’s implementation, the School Board directed the Administration to create a Facilities Plan Oversight Committee to study the district’s finances and analyze construction work before incurring any cost for those two new elementary schools.
The Facilities Oversight Committee presented its findings to the School Board in November after a yearlong analysis of RPS 205 finances and construction management so far. The committee agreed the district could continue with the plan, as approved, because it is financially feasible to complete the plan and build two new schools within budget.
Design and construction bids have not yet been awarded. Exact locations for the new construction have not yet been decided. Tentative plans for new schools are as follows:
New School No. 1 will replace Nelson and Kishwaukee elementary schools. Nelson and Kishwaukee will close after the 2017-18 school year. A new school that combines those school populations will open for the 2018-19 school year. The 84,000 square-foot building will cost an estimated $21.5 million.
New School No. 2 will replace Cherry Valley, White Swan and Thompson elementary schools. The three schools will close after the 2018-19 school year. A new school will open for the 2019-20 school year. The 84,000 square-foot building will cost an estimated $20.6 million.
Timeline of events:
-passage of a referendum supporting construction of one or more new schools;
- November 2012: A referendum received support from 65 percent of voters to sell $139 million in bonds for construction. The approval kickstarted the district’s largest, most comprehensive building renovation and improvement plan. Initial projects included elementary school additions, additions and field houses at three high schools, major renovations and upgrades at Jefferson High School, plus window replacement, paving and boilers at several sites.
- August 2014: The School Board approved a modified Facilities Plan that included closing eight schools, building two new schools and 13 additions. The School Board agreed the Administration must meet several conditions before incurring any costs toward building new schools. Among those terms:
-a full report and recommendation by the Facilities Plan Oversight Committee regarding the feasibility of accomplishing the entire facilities plan within the allocated budget;
-a presentation is made to the Board of the final audited FY15 budget results, together with an overall presentation of the District's projected budget needs over the remainder of the facilities plan.
- November 2014: A second referendum received support from 74 percent of voters, giving the School Board permission to use tax dollars and bond money to build one or more new schools. Plans were already in the works for additions and major renovations, but voter approval was needed for any new construction.
- Nov. 24, 2015: The Facilities Oversight Committee presented its findings and determined it is financially feasible to move forward with the facilities plan and construction of two new schools.
- Dec. 8, 2015: Conditions outlined in August 2014 have been met. The Rockford School Board unanimously agreed to delay the vote and scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Dec. 15.
- Dec. 15, 2015: The Rockford School Board voted to continue with the board-approved 10-year facilities plan and include construction of two new elementary schools.