Two underpinning goals anchored the presentations and discussions at Thursday's night board of education meeting regarding a proposed $43.5 million bond measure for the April 3 ballot: maintaining safety and achievement.
What amount of money will it take to keep students, staff and visitors secure, and what amount of investment does Rockwood need to support the world-class education that has come to be expected for Rockwood students?
After two rounds of discussions, the board's directors arrived at the slightly adjusted price tag of $43.2 million as the immediate future total needed to execute mission-critical projects.
Greg Holthouse, a Rockwood citizen and chair of the 2012 Bond Issue committee, recommended the board move forward with the entire proposed $43.5 million package, . "It’s all there. We've followed a process that involved the right building stakeholders to determine each buildings' needs," he said.
"This list has the recommendations from the professionals who we entrust to run the schools every day, and it has the input from three different committees: finance, technology and bond issue committee."
Holthouse said bond committee members' decisions were guided by the goal of protecting the safety and welfare of students, staff, parents and visitors of Rockwood buildings, and also by desiring to protect the district's infrastructure investment—both bricks and mortar as well as technology.
Of the $43.5 million package, Holthouse said $9 million of it was devoted to the safety and welfare of students and faculty. "Many people don't know that not 100 percent of our buildings are sprinkled (equipped for sprinkling systems in case of fire). We've been accomplishing that incrementally over the years. This bond issue is another bite on that apple," he said.
"Fire alarms go hand-in-hand with the sprinkler systems, so that's why that amount is necessary."
He said another guiding principle for their suggestions was to ensure all Rockwood students have the opportunity to have similar experiences and access to technology, no matter their location.
He named the last guiding mission as the group's desire to keep developing best-in-class facilities. "Many of our gym floors are well over 20 years; some are 40 years old. They can only be refinished so many times," he said.
Additionally, he said Rockwood parking lots cover as much as, or more, pavement surface as the University of Missouri-Columbia. "That much pavement requires maintenance."
What's the Definition of Absolutely Essential Needs?
Board of director Matt Doell led a discussion at the 5 p.m. work session about a handful of areas in which he believed the proposed list of bond-related projects could be adjusted, bringing the recommended bond total down to $39 million at one point.
"Every item (on the proposed bond list) needs to be defendable and critical," said Doell. "We’ve all got Rockwood's best interest at heart, but in fairness to the public, we need to run through this all and see if the amount could be reduced."
Doell's targeted areas were:
- Item No. 19: Was the $7.5 million desired for technology absolute? Doell referenced that at one point in prior months, a total of $7 million was suggested for technology. Rockwood's chief information officer Steve Beatty answered that the department's exact recommendation was never $7 million but that the numbers got rounded off in the early phases of the budgeting process.
- Item No. 9: Just how bad is the playing field at Rockwood Summit High to justify $220,000 worth of improvements? Dennis Griffith, assistant superintendent of administrative services, said it is a multipurpose field with a slope and holes that cause safety hazards. Doell asked if the field is usable. Griffith said it was for practices, but not games.
- Item No. 10: A big-ticket item within this $1,050,000 health and wellness project was $745,000 for a nurses's station at in Wildwood. Griffith said because the current nurse's station is in the middle of counseling space, they would have to move it and build new space for expansion, thereby using the former space for storage or offices. By not building out a new nurses station, this project's amount could be reduced by $200,000. Board president Janet Strate said there’s a need at LaSalle Springs due to the students being served but there is no where to go the way it’s designed.
- Item No. 12: Doell asked what the end impact would be without this $3.5 million space expansion for early childhood, which covers children at age 3 through pre-kindergarten. The answer was that after capacity was reached, Rockwood would have to turn children away. Rockwood's Karen
Hargadine, executive director of PreK–Elementary education, said a critical factor to consider is special needs' students and having enough space in the immediate areas of all students without having to bus students around throughout the district. She said not providing enough space for those who want to enroll would send the signal that Rockwood doesn't believe early childhood is important. Doell asked if growth is projected in that area. She said enrollment fluctuates year to year, but is growing. One "piece of the puzzle," is where early childhood classrooms are currently housed in elementary buildings, Hargadine said, but elementary administrators are going to need that space back for their own classes. Overload in one spot presents problems in another, she said.
- Item No. 13: Doell said while he understood the roles of libraries have evolved, he wondered if the $500,000 for two library renovations was essential. Griffith said with libraries being the hub of learning in every school, they had envisioned making these better learning environments like the library recently done at . He said if the bond issue doesn’t pass, they’d get through it, but reminded it was a renovation of space, not a build-out.
- Items Nos. 17 and 18: Doell said it stood to reason that if individual projects on the list were to be adjusted, then the administrative overhead and project management costs also could be reduced proportionately.
Board directors went through each of these line items again at the 7 p.m. meeting. Consensus was reached to save money within the health and wellness project by accomplishing the new nurses' station at LaSalle Springs but by not renovating the vacated space. Another $20,700 in administrative costs were then shaved off the total.
The vote to put forth a $43.2 million bond measure was unanimous. It will be called Proposition R.