The Rockford School Board tonight approved plans based on community feedback to tear down Walker Elementary School, 1520 Post Ave., and transfer the vacant land to the Rockford Park District. The Park District Board of Commissioners approved the intergovernmental at their meeting tonight.
Walker Elementary School has been vacant since the school closed after the 2015-16 school year. The district held community meetings in May 2016 to collect feedback from Walker Elementary School neighbors about future plans for the site. A majority of neighbors surveyed favored a partnership with the Rockford Park District to use that land for a park.
Some neighbors asked district officials to consider potential redevelopment, which RPS 205 officials explored. District leaders partnered with the City of Rockford to issue a Request for Proposals. Developers were asked to partner with the City and redevelop the school. Following a deadline extension, no proposals were submitted. RPS 205 officials expect to begin demolition in spring 2018. The deadline to tear down the building, according to the agreement, is June 29, 2018. The existing playground and equipment will remain, and all paving will be removed, according to the agreement.
Closing Walker was part of the district’s 10-year facilities plan, which includes building two elementary schools, upgrading existing buildings and shrinking the district’s footprint. The School Board approved an updated 10-year facilities plan in August 2014, based on in-depth analysis and community input. That plan outlined closing eight buildings and building 13 elementary school additions and two new schools.
The School Board and Park District Board of Commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement in February that will help develop a new elementary school in Cherry Valley and turn land at White Swan, Thompson and New Milford elementary schools over to the Park District for neighborhood recreational opportunities. The existing Cherry Valley Elementary School will be torn down, and the property will be conveyed to the Village of Cherry Valley.