by MITCH HARVATIN
Rockford residents voted on a nearly 46 million dollar bond proposal back in 2008, and almost a year later, all Rockford Public Schools (RPS) buildings are receiving some kind of upgrade, whether it’s adding on new classrooms, upgrading technology and/or adding sporting fields.
Major projects happening now are at Cannonsburg (228 students), Lakes (547 students), Roguewood (564 students), and Valley View (625 students) elementary schools where classrooms were more crowded.
Under construction at East Rockford Middle School—927 students attended on school count day—are new sporting fields: six softball/youth baseball fields, two baseball fields, three multi-purpose fields and a new pathway for cross-country; adding to that 100 additional parking spots at each sporting field.
North Rockford Middle School (831 students) will receive additional parking spots and new sidewalks. The tennis courts will be relocated. New lockers will be placed in the hallway. Portions of the existing classrooms and restrooms will be renovated.
Rockford High School (1,917 students) has received a new state-of-the-art track field. District officials contracted to install a Mondoturf Eco-fill field. The turf involved is 100 percent recyclable, free of carcinogenic substances, comprised of 17.5 percent post-consumer recycled content, and is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) friendly. This track will obtain a lower surface temperature and reduce the risk of injury. Rockford High School will also see six new multipurpose fields and a new softball field and baseball field.
The new stadium will no longer be exclusive for just football players, but will also include the Rockford Marching Band, and lacrosse and soccer players.
Every school and classroom in the district will receive a new projector with a special camera to zoom in on textbooks and paperback material. It also allows the instructor to give a 3-D example of the material, if needed.
“We use technology as a tool,” said RPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler.
RPS Assistant Superintendent Michael Cuneo said that Rockford Public Schools cannot afford to build a new high school, so they “added on” to the district where it was needed.
Projects that are ongoing should be completed by early winter.
Belmont (370 students) and Crestwood (483 students) elementary schools will go under construction next year. Four classrooms will be added, along with other upgrades at Crestwood Elementary. Officials are forecasting those projects to be done by December 21, 2010.
Meadow Ridge (528 students) Elementary will receive upgrades to the school entrance, and construction will start next year.
District-wide, there will be security upgrades. According to Dr. Shibler, all schools will have card access features, setting times when certain people can go inside, and tracking exactly who enters the building. New playground surfaces and equipment are to be placed at all elementary schools next summer.
Rockford taxpayers didn’t see a tax hike when this proposal passed, as it was a millage renewal rather than a new tax.
Forest Hills Public Schools (FHPS) receives $1,300 more than RPS, who earns $7,316 per student. FHPS receives nearly 10 million dollars more than Rockford. That is how they can maintain a total of three high schools. Dr. Shibler said that it costs about 3.1 million dollars to maintain a high school year-round.
“They [students] are going to be well-prepared,” said Shibler.
These major updates come after RPS achieved their 16-year goal of all schools throughout the district being a Blue Ribbon school.
RPS will hold a ceremony to welcome the new field on September 3 at 6:30 p.m. prior to the Holt football game. There will be a cookout for anyone who has graduated from Rockford High School, starting around 5 p.m.