Rochester School Board to review options for alternative learning center
The Rochester School Board will begin weighing a proposal next week to replace the Golden Hill alternative learning center in southeast Rochester.
The options? Build a new building at its current site or buy a building and remodel it into a school. Either project would come with a price tag of no more than $9.3 million, according to district documents.
The documents do not name the existing building that could be refurbished into a school. But sources within the business community have mentioned the Rochester Market Square building at 37 Wood Lake Drive S.E. in Rochester as one possibility.
The L-shaped building, which was constructed at the height of the building boom in 2005, sits largely empty except for a Sherwin Williams tenant. School officials were unavailable for comment.
Documents paint Golden Hill, built in 1934, as suffering from a number of deficiencies that negatively affect learning: a cooling and heating system with 75-year-old boilers that need constant repair, air quality so poor that fans and air conditioners are run constantly to keep the air moving, and an electrical system that is often overwhelmed by energy demands in a computer-driven age.
"Because of the age of the building and the cost to renovate the existing building, the district is looking at other options to meet the needs of the ALC program," say documents provided by district business manager Larry Smith.
Either option would provide a facility of 56,000 to 66,000 square feet, a third more than that of the current site, which contains 38,300 square feet, including portable classrooms. Market Square has 56,455 square feet. A decision to build new at Golden Hill's current site would involve partial demolition of the existing building and major maintenance on the rest.
A study by a facility task force listed Golden Hill as the district's No. 1 priority among the 33 schools and facilities supervised by the district, documents show.
The proposal will be presented to the school board for the first time at the board's regular 6:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday. No action is expected then, but if the board decides to move forward, the first step would be to send it to the Minnesota Department of Education for review and comment. If positively reviewed by the state, the board would likely approve the project later this summer.
Project price tag
The $9.3 million project would be funded through the selling of certificates of participation and be repaid over 15 years through an increased levy on district property owners. For a homeowner with property valued at $200,000, the tax impact would translate into a $13 per year increase.
The plan is the second big ticket item proposed to the school board in a month. The board also is discussing a three-year, $10 million plan that would provide all of the district's 16,000 students with access to an iPad tablet starting in 2013.
Golden Hill houses many of the district's alternative learning programs aimed at helping students who struggle in conventional classrooms. ALC programs often boast smaller class sizes and more individual attention. A high school day school, a night school, an alternative middle school and ninth-grade bridge program are among the programs located there.