Rochester Public School officials are hitting the ground running with plans for $180.9 million in capital improvements.
On Tuesday, voters in the school district approved a two-question bond referendum.
On Wednesday, the district released a request for proposals on the projects.
“That means the community supported our plan and understands our students’ needs,” Rochester Schools Superintendent Michael Muñoz said.
The first bond question called for $171.4 million in funding toward construction of a new elementary school at Schmidt Park, a new middle school in a yet to be determined site and to reconstruct two elementary schools -- Bishop and Longfellow — as larger capacity buildings.
It also includes funding for security and safety upgrades to district buildings. It will also fund about $6.4 million in safety and security improvements at district buildings and improvements to the three high school auditoriums.
That passed with about 69 percent of the unofficial vote with 11,754 in favor and 5,215 against with 64 of 65 precincts reporting.
The second question called for $9.5 million to build a competition pool at Century High School and close the district's three middle school pools. The current pool space would be used for programming or class space. That passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote with 10,122 in favor and 6,828 against with 64 of 65 precincts reporting.
The request for proposals was drafted shortly after the school board approved a $3.8 million contract with Knutson Construction to manage the plan to build the four buildings.
“We need the turnaround to be quick once the referendum passed because the process to design and build schools is multi-year and we have four on our docket now between now and 2022,” said Heather Nessler, executive director of communications and marketing.
In a statement Tuesday night, Muñoz thanked district administrators, staff and a committee of volunteers for their success in convincing voters of the need for new schools to ease crowding.
Since 2011, Rochester schools have experienced 12 percent enrollment growth. Most district elementary schools are at about 98 percent capacity, and the three middle schools run at about 99 percent capacity.
A key missing piece of information in the request for proposals is the location of the middle school. With the successful passage of the bond, the district can begin to more thoroughly explore options, said Don Barlow, school board president.
“We couldn’t operate on presumptions,” he said. “We are, of course, excited to move forward in the process and working with the city.”
In March, the board approved a $2.9 million purchase agreement for 150 acres of land along 40th Street Southwest for a middle school. However, much of the property, under the city’s long-range plan, is not set for urban expansion for more than 20 years. That purchase agreement was contingent on the bond passing, and the district does have the right to terminate the agreement with no money lost.
“Right now, we’re better positioned to have further communication with the city and others,” Barlow said.
The successful vote also means school officials can gather input from the community regarding construction plans.
“The community said, ‘We support this,’ and we will support the community,” Barlow said.