Rockford Schools prepare for ‘what if?’ regarding proposed bond referendum

The Rockford School Board meeting Sept. 17 included updates by administration and staff regarding progress, and plans regarding the 2012-13 school year including “What if?” reports focusing on how closing the Rockford Middle School building would affect all levels of education, both physically and program-wise.

Closing the middle school building will be a reality, said District 883 Superintendent Paul Durand, if the proposed referendum that goes before voters Nov. 6 does not pass. The referendum is for an amount not to exceed $27 million, to be used for repairs, improvements and updates to district properties and buildings including mechanical systems, technology infrastructure, building interiors and exteriors, parking, sidewalks and activity areas/sport venues.

A similar referendum, for $28.5 million, was defeated by about 200 votes last February.

The full six-member board approved taking the request for additional funding back to the public last July, and subsequently decided to put one question on the ballot:

Shall the school board of Independent School District No. 883 (Rockford) be authorized to issue its general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $27,000,000 to provide funds for the acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities, including the renovation, repair, remodeling, upgrading, equipping and construction of improvements to various school sites, parking lots, sidewalks, athletic and activity areas, mechanical, ventilation, heating and plumbing systems, electrical systems, life safety and security systems, technology infrastructure, and building roofs, windows, door, exterior envelopes and interiors?

Voters will be asked for a “yes” or “no” vote, with a simple majority determining the outcome.

In a “what it?” the bond doesn’t get approval, exercise, staff and administrators were asked to give projections in light of the middle school building closing.

Rockford Middle School Principal, Amy Denneson, spoke to losing space inside (computer labs), and outside (rain forests and other horticultural feats accomplished in 2012). She referred to a “loss of concept” the change might result in.

Middle school pupils would be divided up by grade, some going back to the elementary campus, some moving up to the high school.

The future of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program, initiated in 2011, could be in jeopardy if the middle school building closes. This program has resulted in increased RMS-CES  enrollment.

Rockford elementary and high schools principals, Brenda Petersmeyer and Ryan Jensen respectively, both addressed concerns over limited space and cuts in programs the closing of the middle school may result in.

John Engel, the district’s Director of Technology, stated that combing schools will likely result in fewer computer labs and a higher ratio of students to computers (currently 3-to-1 in the middle school).

Maureen Mullens, who manages the district’s building and grounds, noted costs that would remain the district’s responsibility should the middle school building close.

Times, dates and locations of informational meetings on the proposed bond levy can be found on the district’s web site:

The next regular meeting of the Rockford school Board is Monday, Oct. 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the district boardroom (located on the lower level of the middle school).