Rockford Schools, district residents, await referendum vote

At its Aug. 20 meeting, the Rockford School Board approved the following question to be placed on the ballot at the Nov. 6 election:

“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, doors, exterior envelopes and interiors?”

District administration and staff held community meetings and tours detailing the conditions of buildings and grounds. They are, to an unbiased observer, troublesome.

The middle school roof is compromised, as is the gymnasium floor (unusable due to sink-age issues). Closing this building is the first sacrifice the district is prepared to make if the referendum does not pass, but repairs and upgrades are needed in all three buildings (elementary, middle and high school).

Rockford City Councilor Rick Martinson says of the situation, “Rockford is at a critical stage for development.  As a resident for the past 25 years, I have seen a decline in amenities that we once had. If the School Bond passes, Rockford has a better chance at bringing a turn around to our vitality. Parents ultimately look at the school district before considering taking up residency in any community. Strong schools make strong communities. Please help the Rockford/Greenfield/Corcoran area grow by approving this Bond Referendum.”

This stance has received some pushback. Not everyone agrees with, or supports, the proposed referendum.

Tom Stang, from Greenfield writes, “Vote ‘no’. Don’t be swayed by the aggressive campaign: Save the Middle School. How did it get to this desperate state in the first place? Strong schools build strong property values! Likewise – weak, poorly managed schools degrade property values. Try selling your house if Dist. 883 becomes known primarily for poor judgment, excessive spending, and erroneously driving up your taxes”

Voters will make the call in November on this complex, and controversial, issue.

From supporters Teresa and Mike Rentz, comes this sentiment, “This Bond Referendum is about much needed improvements to the buildings and grounds that have been deferred for too many years.  These expensive emergency repairs are robbing $ from the general fund where it should be buying things for the classrooms. Our Superintendent, Paul Durand, along with the Rockford School board have researched and developed the best plan to see this through.  Now is the time to make these repairs and move forward, not pay to move backwards. Vote Yes November 6th”.”

Opposing this viewpoint is Greenfield resident Joe Lepore:

“This school system has never been known for education (as state test scores prove), financial management (as their huge debt shows) or responsibility (as the large list of neglected maintenance items shows).

This is a bond about ‘wants’, not ‘needs.’ They don’t need $4.5 million for sports facilities while threatening to close a school. This doesn’t help our students.”

On Nov. 6, residents of the Rockford Area School District, 883, will have the opportunity to decide the bond question with a “yes” or “no” vote.