ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- In a vote that will affect thousands of students, the Rockford School Board approves the plan to close 8 schools and put additions on 13 buildings.
In a 5-1-1 vote, school board members signed off on this updated facilities plan. Board member Lisa Jackson voted no and Laura Powers abstained. Under this plan, Nelson and Kishwaukee will close and a new school will be built to replace them. White Swan, Cherry Valley and Thompson school will also close and a new building will replace those three. Beyer and Nashold will become early childhood centers,
The timing has not been set for when construction will begin. School board member Laura Powers says she was originally told 2017, a timeline she supported. Powers said during Monday's board meeting that another board member pushed up the timeline for the schools' construction and the vote, so she didn't take part.
“Through a lot of back room deals the timing was changed at the 11th hour and I was not even brought into the conversation, I was not asked for my opinion about changing the timing. And I do not participate in that,” says Laura Powers of Subdistrict G.
Half a dozen speakers told the board during public comment they think the school board is focusing too much on buildings and not enough on providing students a quality eduction.
"I believe that focusing on buildings and improved learning environments as well as student achievement are things we can do both. I don't think its an "either or". It's an "and" and I think we are going to be able to improve learning environments and learning outcomes," says Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett.
A new facilities plan oversight committee is being set up to guide how the closings and construction take place. The goal is to have the group issue a report with their recommendations by December 2015. That committee will be made up of members of the public and school board members says any one who wants to serve may contact the district.
Voters have to approve the building of the 2 new schools. That question will be on the November 4th ballot.
After nearly a year of community input and debate, the Rockford School District has settled on a plan to close buildings and add new ones. Now, the decision is in the school board’s hands.
The plan closes eight schools and means the construction of two new buildings to replace some of the closures.
Nelson and Kishwaukee would shut down and a new school would be built in its place. The same would happen for White Swan and Cherry Valley schools. The other four schools that close would be combined into nearby schools. Beyer and Nashold will both become early childhood centers.
Also as part of these changes, the Montessori Program would move to Marsh Elementary School. Marshall School would then become the campus for the gifted program. This final list was recommended to the board by the facilities task force after research and 39 community meetings. The school district says this is a part of the $250 million facilities plan to improve all schools over ten years.
The administration wants these changes to be complete by 2018 that way every student is in an upgraded building, whether a new one or one that’s been renovated.
Voters will also have to approve this because the referendum that passed in 2012 didn’t say anything about building new schools, just making updates to existing schools. The district will have to ask voters for permission to take out loans and build two new schools.