Pick a phase of construction, and Rochester Public Schools probably has a project close to it. Deep into the summer construction season, the building of four new schools is well underway.
The most developed of the four projects is Overland Elementary, on Overland Drive north of 55th Street Northwest between Highway 52 and 18th Avenue.
The other new school being constructed is the yet-to-be-named middle school, just north of 65th Street Northwest near the intersection with 55th Avenue. The middle school is on the far outer limits of the city's existing development.
The two other construction projects are tear-down-and-rebuild scenarios, including Bishop Elementary, just off West Circle Drive, and Longfellow Elementary, on Marion Road in Southeast Rochester. The new Bishop Elementary is being constructed on the same lot as the previous rendition. The new Longfellow, however, is being built down the road from the current building.
All four projects are being funded by the 2019 voter-approved referendum amounting to $180.9 million.
If Overland Elementary were a vehicle, it would already be wafting that "new car smell." About a month from opening, crews are putting the finishing touches on the school.
The building has received a temporary certificate of occupancy, meaning the district has been able to start moving furniture in.
"It doesn't mean the building's complete," said Scott Sherden, RPS director of operations. "It just means that we're allowed to go in there and start putting our things into classrooms. So we've already put together several classrooms. There's still a lot to do in the next three weeks/four weeks, before school starts."
There's asphalt to be laid outside. There are acoustic ceiling tiles that need to be installed. But, the gym looks like a gym, and the lunchroom looks like a lunchroom.
Unlike any of the three other schools under construction, Overland will actually be put to use this coming school year. Students in Bishop Elementary's boundaries will attend Overland while the new Bishop is under construction. After that, the district's new boundaries will go into effect, and Overland will become home to children in that neck of Rochester.
"It's really turning out to be a beautiful building," Sherden said.
The still-unnamed middle school
The new middle school isn't nearly as far along as Overland Elementary, but it doesn't have to be. The new middle school isn't expected to be in use until fall 2022.
It still looks like a hodgepodge of recently erected walls. The general shape of a building is there, but it's more of a skeleton than a finished product.
The tasks currently underway include the precast wall panel installation, precast floor plank installation, plumbing installation and electrical installation.
Bishop Elementary is unique among the projects, in that the district had to demolish the existing building before it could begin construction on the new one.
"Harriot Bishop does not exist anymore; it's completely gone now," Sherden said at the July 27 school board meeting.
The district unofficially began the demolition process June 1, when it allowed students to take a couple swings at one of the outside walls.
According to a schedule of the various projects, the demolition of the existing building was set to wrap up June 28. And according to a presentation on the projects from July 27, the next six weeks were set to include processes such as hazardous material abatement, installing footings and foundations, and a stormwater retention chamber, among others.
Due to Longfellow's unique schedule, students have already started their school year in the existing building. Meanwhile, just down the road, construction is underway on the new school building.
Crews broke ground at the construction site in April. Overall, the beginnings of a building can be seen, though it is not as far along as the new middle school. In some places, there are standing walls. In others, it's just a collection of standing beams.
The district expects to be able to move in to the building in summer 2022. The reason the new building is being built farther down the road is because the school district agreed to a land swap with the City of Rochester. Because of that, the land with the existing Longfellow building will belong to the city after the new building is finished.
Rochester Public Schools Pools
The school district is also in the process of constructing a new swimming pool at Century High School. According to the most recent schedule for the various referendum projects, construction for the Century pool is expected to begin Monday, Aug. 9.
Eventually, the district also will undertake the filling-in of the existing swimming pools at the three middle schools. That process, however, is not expected to begin until the later half of 2022.
Rochester isn't the only district in the throes of construction. A few area school districts are also either fixing existing buildings or building new ones. Two of the larger projects are listed below:
St. Charles Public Schools
In 2019, taxpayers approved an $18.5 million referendum to address various needs around the district. Among other projects, the referendum dollars will pay for a new auxiliary gym, a new science room wing addition, and various remodeling projects.
Zumbro Education District
In 2021, the Zumbro Education District began construction on a new facility near the Kasson-Mantorville High School. The Zumbro district serves a handful of area school districts, providing services that those districts might not be able to afford on their own, such as services for the visually impaired and hard of hearing.
The new building will be 61,000 square feet and cost $16 million. The district plans to open it for use in fall 2022.