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Rockford School Board Approves School Closure Plan

ROCKFORD - The Rockford School Board votes in favor of a plan that would close eight elementary schools, to a cost of $250 million.
ROCKFORD -- The Rockford School Board took a huge step towards improving the future of District 205 Tuesday, voting in favor of a massive $250 million facilities plan which will close eight elementary schools, building two new schools, and modifying 13 others to create fewer, larger, more modern elementary schools across the district.

Five School Board members voted in favor of the ten year plan, one abstained, and one voted against.

The ten year facility plan will mean the closure of Cherry Valley Elementary, King Elementary, Kishwaukee Elementary, Nelson Elementary, Thompson Elementary, Walker Elementary, White Swan Elementary Schools and the Dennis Early Childhood Education Center.  Kishwaukee and Nelson Elementary schools will be combined into a new building, as well Thompson, White Swan and Cherry Valley Elementary schools. 

District officials say the larger schools will enable them to offer more services to students in each school more efficiently.

The school district had originally considered three consolidation plans, but pared them down after holding nearly 40 community feedback sessions with the public and hearing the concerns of parents.  Many of the sessions were contentious with some arguing too many west side schools were targeted, hurting neighborhoods.  But other sessions had parents praising the plan, saying some nearly century-old schools were beyond repair and needed to go.

Laura Powers, of the School Board, abstained from voting at Tuesday's meeting, citing concerns over starting the construction project next year instead of in 2017, as originally planned.  

Maxwell Wang, a District 205 alumnus, attended Tuesday's meeting and echoed Powers' sentiments, saying "Between Thursday and today [Tuesday], someone came up with the brilliant plan of 'let's change the entire [project] and move it...forward to 2015 so that we don't have people objecting to it."

"The board had a strong conscensus that we are going to move forward in 2015," says Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Rockford Public School Superintendent.  "I think that was an excellent decision on the board's part.  That's what they amended [to the original plan.]  And, I think this is going to be what is best for students.  It's going to give us an opportunity to make good on our promise that we have high quality learning environments in all of our schools."

The plan hinges on voters approving a ballot referendum in November.  The plan does not require a tax increase for funding, but it will ask for permission from the public to use existing or anticipated money to build new schools.

 
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