RUSD's two approaches to improving student learning:
New schools and better operations
A key element of Racine Unified's "reinvestment" plan was made clear Monday night -- its cost.
Not to keep you in suspense any longer: $58 million, for the "base" bricks-and-mortar portion of Phase 1. That would be accompanied by an additional referendum for operations funding of $7.5 million.
Those are preliminary numbers, Hazen cautioned, admitting that "some will say no" immediately, blaming the economy. Others will say, "You want what? for what?" and that's where the board must go out to the community for "pushback and feedback."
Key elements of the program, so far, include three new K-5 elementary schools, renovations to five more and district-wide ADA improvements. The $58 million bottom line looks like this:
- Bull Fine Arts: $4,000,000
- Jerstad-Agerholm Elementary: $2,250,000
- Roosevelt Elementary: $5,350,000
- Schulte Elementary: $2,825,000
- Wind Point Elementary: $7,325,000
- District-wide ADA improvements: $4,150,000
- 3 New K-5 schools: $32,100,000
The Phase 1 Operations Referendum would raise $3.5 million as an ARRA bridge for the 2011-2012 school year (covering the end of stimulus funding); $1 million for financial stability (money put into the district's "surplus" account, which helps lower bond interest rates), and $3 million for educational efficiencies.
And what would all this cost you? That depends upon the assessed value of your home, of course. The district estimates that the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $92 to $120 per year in additional taxes, depending on which options are approved. Also relevant is the per-pupil cost at Unified, compared to other districts. The bar chart below shows where the district is today, and where it would be if the referenda pass. Of course, all those districts we're compared to would also (probably) increase spending as well. Hazen noted, "we don't want to over-burden the taxpayers."
Hazen spent time outlining the various "pillars" on which the district hopes to build. The construction funds would provide efficient school size, smaller classes and ADA compliance. All elementary staffing would be revised, there would be a 13-1 student/teacher ratio in K-1st and 26-1 in 2nd through 5th grades. There would be 14 schools with 312 students, 10 with 468 and 1 with 624. Operations funding would fill the district's existing "staffing gap" of 81 teachers (average yearly cost of each teacher: $74,475.)
The timeline for all this:
- April and May: Community feedback
- Fall 2010: Referendum
- February 2011: Issue bonds
- May 2011: Break ground
- September 2012: Open new schools
Hazen said "now is a good time to build," with construction companies hungry and interest rates low. The program would create 200 construction trade jobs for a year, he said.
"Is the fall too soon (for a referendum), given economic conditions?" Hazen asked rhetorically. "If we wait," he answering his own question, "construction goes back another year."
A Phase II referendum in Spring 2012 would be aimed at reducing secondary school size (High schools: 1,800 and Middle schools: 702), replacing Walden with a Green School, replacing Red Apple, remodeling Olympia Brown and perhaps the new project on the drawing board: a high school partnered with Gateway Technical College.,
The result of all this would be updated facilities ("2012 vs. the existing 1856"); ADA improvements, efficient school size and efficient class size. Looking at the reinvestment program like a business plan, Hazen said nearby area districts have already committed to building: Kenosha has a new high school, Burlington has newer schools, Oak Creek is building, he said. "We need to compete that way," he said.
Two other points: Earlier in the evening, the School Board approved the proposed $8.5 million technology refresh plan, that will replace all 8,000 of the district's computers and servers. Second, the $1 million to "maintain financial stability" would be on-going, with no sunset clause.
Hazen's complete presentation, and more background on the reinvestment plan, will be posted HERE on Unified's website.
Questions about the plan may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org Answers will appear on Unified's website at: About us>Reinvesting in RUSD.
The auditorium at Starbucks was mostly empty for RUSD's presentation