Nearly a year after they approved a large referendum for upgrades throughout Rochester Public Schools, voters in the district are beginning to see the results of that decision.
The Rochester School Board received an update on Tuesday regarding the costs and progress of the various construction projects associated with the 2019 referendum. The referendum included $180.9 million for both new construction and updates to existing facilities.
The four largest projects include a new elementary school and a new middle school, and the reconstruction of Longfellow and Harriet Bishop elementary schools.
Construction of the new elementary school began in August. It’s expected to be finished August 2021. The budget for it is $32,759,521. The district recently began soliciting name suggestions for the school.
Keane McWaters of Knutson Construction, who spoke at Tuesday's meeting, said the bids for the elementary school recently came back.
“That’s a pretty major milestone for the project and the district,” McWaters said.
Construction of the new middle school began earlier this month. Construction is expected to continue until June 2022. The price tag for that project is estimated at $57,936,430.
The demolition of the current Harriet Bishop building is planned for June. Construction on the new building will begin in July, with a completion date in June 2022. That project’s estimated cost is $32,416,279.
Construction of Longfellow is planned to begin May, with a completion date of June 2022. That project includes a land swap with the city of Rochester, so the new building will not be in the same spot as the current school. The cost of that project is estimated at $34,348,324.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved an agreement for the land swap with the city. RPS Finance Director John Carlson spoke briefly about why it's beneficial for the district to build the new school on the land it's receiving from the city of Rochester rather than the existing Longfellow site.
“It’s really to our advantage to move that to a different site a couple blocks away so that we have room to work and a little bit of room to expand since the school will be a little bit bigger,” Carlson said. “Trying to build it on the same existing site would be technically possible. But I think it would be very difficult and very challenging to work around that.”
There are also a number of smaller projects taking place in the district as a result of the referendum.
A pool will be built at Century High School, with an expected start date in June. The pool at Mayo High School is set to receive upgrades in May 2022. The three pools at middle school will be filled starting in July 2022 and those spaces repurposed.
“Those have been kind of delayed and (put) on the backburner,” McWaters said about the pool projects. “We are starting to get a much clearer picture on where the budgets will be; it’s a fairly volatile market.”
A number of the district’s schools are receiving security upgrades to their entrances. Some of those entrance upgrades were installed this summer. The rest are scheduled to be put in place next summer. The cost of those upgrades is $6,243,018.
Upgrades to the auditoriums at the three high schools is already taking place. The budget for those upgrades is $2,140,799 and McWaters said those projects came in "just under budget."
Board member Cathy Nathan said she recently was able to see the upgrades to the auditorium at Century High School.
“It really does look beautiful and it is transformational,” Nathan said. “And I really can’t wait for our students to get back into those auditoriums and see what we were able to do with those referendum dollars.”