BY LINDA HERKENHOFF
As summer brings a bit of a hiatus to hundreds of Dist. 883 students, it was evident at the Rockford Area School Board meeting of June 18 that there is plenty of work, planning and changes going on behind the scenes to make it anything but a break for staff, administration and officials.
Enrollment numbers are watched closely in most districts, and are directly tied to a significant amount of school funding on a per-pupil basis. Rockford Schools witnessed a decline trend beginning about six years ago that appears, now, to be circumvented with some grade levels experiencing growth.
The numbers fluctuate throughout the year, due to an array of circumstances; however, the district’s last quarterly report supports what those prior have for the last year and a half: the Rockford student body remains solid and growing.
After years of deep cuts to programs, a referendum passed in 2009 allowed the district to recapture some of the staffing it needed to, not only replace what was lost, but reinvent some of the programs that suffered the most.
In 2010, an all-day, every-day, tuition-free kindergarten program was launched.
Intended to increase enrollment, which it did, it was also considered a vehicle to increase the learning potential of the area’s youngest students in preparation for staying in District 883 where an arts magnet elementary school, established in 2004, and highly regarded, awaits them for grades one through five, as well as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focused education for their middle school years.
Although the STEM middle school program is relatively new, it, too, has had a positive affect on enrollment.
The Rockford High School has also expanded course choices, and availability, and has re-entered a vocational program with Wright County.
The combination of increased staffing – moderate, but accommodating -and cutting edge programming has been beneficial to the relatively small district, to the tune of about 70 additional students.
The Rockford Area School District does not lack for enthusiastic educators, or vision. The planning to make this district strong in the arts, science and core education has been a major undertaking, but one that seems to be well on its way.
The board has decided to go forward with a proposed tax levy for the district this fall. The last levy, for $27 million, failed last winter. Technology, facility and athletic upgrades were among the items planned for improvement in that ballot question.
The board is currently awaiting survey information from area residents in regard to the future levy question.
The next meeting of the Rockford School Board is Monday, July 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the District boardroom located in the lower level of Rockford Middle School.