A plan to close eight Rockford elementary schools and build two new ones is on its way to a vote by the school board. Last night, the school district held the last of 39 public meetings about the proposal.
Administrators settled on the plan after collecting more than one-thousand comments from the public. It’s a combination of the three proposals first presented in May. Rockford School superintendent Ehren Jarrett says he’s proud of the transparent process:
“I think the fact that we DID make some significant changes shows that number one, we don’t have all the answers, or believe we do, and we really value community input when it comes to making a 250-million dollar decision. “
Much of that funding comes from a referendum approved in 2012. But that was only supposed to pay for school improvements, NOT new buildings. So the district is expected to go back to voters this fall for permission to build two new schools. The Rockford School Board will vote on the entire proposal at its August 12th meeting.
Rockford is consolidating many of its elementary schools and moving some programs to make larger, more efficient schools. Jarrett says classroom sizes will stay the same. He also told the crowd of about 50 people that studies of elementary school sizes are inconsistent and often contradictory. But he says common sense supports the district’s plan to consolidate:
“Let’s look at this practically. We can have more teachers that are full time, more opportunities for art, music and other specials, we can have more full time support staff, and so we just felt like the evidence was really compelling.”
A demographer has been hired to draw boundaries for the elementary school zones. Jarrett says they will be based purely on the number of students in the area and will not be gerrymandered based on race or other factors.
Links to the building plan will be posted here as soon as they are available.