The Rochester School Board gave the district another 60 days to examine the suitability of land it plans to purchase for new schools.
The board voted Tuesday to add the 60 days to a 90-day, due diligence period to study whether 146 acres of land on the city’s southwest side would be suitable for the district’s needs.
On March 19, the school board approved a purchase agreement with Jarris, LLC to buy the unincorporated land north of 40th Street Southwest between the Hart Farms addition and Bamber Valley Road. The board approved the agreement contingent on whether a Nov. 5 referendum passes and required development approvals are obtained.
The 90-day study period ends June 17. The decision to add 60 days to the study period comes after Rochester City Council members outlined an estimated $22 million in infrastructure needs at the site to accommodate the school. Some council members expressed reluctance to use city funds toward the infrastructure.
Rochester City Council Member Mark Bilderback said the city doesn’t have the resources to meet those infrastructure needs.
Rochester Schools Superintendent Michael Muñoz said the district budgeted infrastructure costs into the referendum ask, but at much lower estimates and didn’t anticipate the district having to pay for all the improvements and extensions of city services.
“We were a little surprised by the feeling we have to do all the infrastructure,” Muñoz said.
The extra time will allow the district to do its own traffic studies and examine the infrastructure needs on the site, Muñoz added.
“It should give us a better picture of exactly what’s required,” he said.
Muñoz said the site was chosen to anticipate future growth and district needs. It has space to house a high school in addition to the planned middle school outlined in the referendum.
“It’s much more complicated than ‘here’s a chunk of land, so let’s build here,’” he said.
The site would draw students from two middle schools — Willow Creek in the city’s southeast quadrant and John Adams in the northwest quadrant. A building somewhere else could increase the district’s bus burden as the district tries to ease crowding at both those middle schools, Muñoz said.
About 100 students from the two schools would live within walking distance of the new middle school, he added.
“(The schools) have to be in areas where we need to provide more capacity,” he said. “The (facilities) task force looked at a lot of data to determine what needs to be built and where it needs to be built.”
The extension would give the district until Aug 16 to study the site’s infrastructure needs.
“Right now, we’re still in the fact-finding phase of this,” Muñoz said.