School board scales back Gibbs School expansion
As Rochester Public Schools prepares six elementary school sites for expansion to pave the way for districtwide all-day kindergarten, George W. Gibbs Elementary School has long been the building in flux.
First, district officials wanted to add five classrooms. Then they reduced it to three out of concern that the school was becoming too big. On Tuesday, during a special session, the Rochester School Board split the difference and settled on four new classrooms after an hour-long discussion.
A debate over Gibbs' space needs was sparked anew when the board was presented with a change order, reducing the number of new classrooms from five to three.
Some board members began to have second doubts about that plan once they realized that eliminating one of the classrooms would only save the district $83,000. Since the savings were so small, consensus built among board members to keep that room in Gibbs' expansion plans.
Agreement on the other classroom, however, was more elusive. First of all, the cost of building that classroom was much more expensive — more than $245,000 — because of plumbing that had to be connected to the room. Consequently, eliminating it from the plans would bring far greater savings and bring the price tag of the districtwide expansion within the $6.7 million budget approved by the board.
Board member Richard Hinds argued for sticking to the original plan of five classrooms, saying the fifth classroom could be used as a pre-kindergarten classroom. Hinds has been a major proponent for expanding pre-kindergarten opportunities. Currently, the district has about 300 students on a waiting list for pre-kindergarten.
As one of the district's largest elementary schools, Gibbs Elementary School serves 837 students. The school is in one of the city's fastest-growing areas, and a large concentration of daycare centers has caused Gibbs' enrollment to soar.
Superintendent Michael Munoz said his concern with adding the fifth classroom is that it could create pressure for Gibbs to accept more students. Officials say the school is already big enough.
Other board members, such as Julie Workman, said it was premature to discuss space requirements for pre-kindergarten, since there had not been any decisions or discussions about the program itself. The board voted 6-to-1 to eliminate just the one classroom, with Hinds the lone dissenter.
The board on Tuesday also accepted a $141,430 bid from Benike Construction to provide one extra classroom and three small instructional areas at Elton Hills Elementary School.
The other five schools slated to undergo kindergarten expansions are Folwell, Pinewood, Washington and Franklin elementary schools and Lincoln K-8 Choice School.