What was the need?
In just five years, enrollment in the District has increased by more than 1,000 students. A Community Growth and Housing Study, conducted by Cooperative Strategies, reports the District will experience significant housing development over the next five years, including an additional 4,000 to 6,000 multi-and single-family units. As a result, enrollment is projected to increase by over 1,200 students. The District is currently operating near capacity.
Based on enrollment projections, the District will be operating over capacity at the elementary and middle school levels within two years. This will require additional classroom space.
The safety of our students and staff is a top priority. Some schools’ main entrances need to be redesigned to better monitor and control visitor access. Many schools’ door locking systems also need to be updated to remotely monitor all entrances, and emergency alarm systems need to be replaced to meet Americans with Disabilities (ADA) code requirements.
Finally, there are a number of support areas that need to be updated in our middle and high schools. The sound and lighting systems in the high schools’ auditoriums are in need of replacement. As well as some of the District’s pools have outlived their service life and others are in need of updates.
How did you determine the need for a referendum?
Due to increased enrollment projections and continued growth, RPS hired a team of consultants in May 2018 to help lead a Facilities Task Force. The Task Force reviewed housing studies, growth impacts, and the District’s long-term facilities maintenance plans. The Task Force developed a plan to address overcrowding in our elementary and middle schools, increase school safety, and improve educational support spaces at the middle and high schools. In February 2019, the District sent a facilities needs survey to all district residents. School Perceptions, a professional survey company, administered this survey. Results from the survey were presented to the School Board on March 5, 2019. Based on the survey feedback and data analysis, the School Board unanimously approved a special election for issuing general obligation school building bonds.
How will these projects support our students?
If question one passes, the District would be able to move forward with building schools to adequately address our capacity needs. It will take three years after the bond referendum is approved before construction is completed. Schools would be available for our students in Fall 2022.
The first question also supports improvement to school entrances to meet our current safety standards. Main entrances would be redesigned to better monitor and control visitor access. Once complete, all visitors to Rochester Public Schools would be routed through a school’s main office before gaining access to the rest of the school. Additionally, the schools’ door locking systems would be updated to allow for remote monitoring of all access points and the emergency alarm systems would be replaced to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) code requirements.
Additionally, based on the School Perceptions survey feedback, the District entered into a purchase agreement (contingent on a successful referendum) for 150 acres in SW Rochester. Land parcels of this size may not be available in the future and costs will likely increase.
Lastly, our students regularly use rented equipment for productions in the auditoriums. An upgrade to lighting and sound systems in all high school auditoriums would provide better quality and energy efficiency.
How were the proposed projects in question two intended to support our students?
All high schools would have competitive swimming pools available to our students and our community. Competitive swimmers would be able to train and practice at their own school. Closing the middle school pools would save annual operating costs, and middle school swimming curriculum could still take place at the high school pools. The District would repurpose the space at the middle schools for other student-centered needs.