Community Update January 21, 2022
Dear RCS Families,
We continue to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and the excellence that is achieved through the cooperation, mutual respect, and love of our staff and families. This collaboration and support remains a source of hope and inspiration for our students.
Rochester Community Schools is truly fortunate to have outstanding volunteers that include our Board of Education. During School Board Appreciation Month, we recognize Barbara Anness, Kevin Beers, Michelle Bueltel, Kristin Bull, Scott Muska, Joe Pittel, and Mike Zabat for their commitment to the children within our district. These servant leaders have a crucial role in governing operations to ensure all RCS students have access to a high-quality education. We are sincerely grateful for their dedication and support and invite our community to join us in expressing gratitude.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, the Rochester High School String Chamber Ensemble joined with other students, teachers, school administrators, and members of the community to provide our board with a special tribute. You may recall that in 2018 the board approved the initiation of a strings program to complete the RCS music curriculum, which also includes band and choir. This ensemble represents one of the first high-school level orchestra programs within our district and serves as just one example of how our board members work to do great things for our students.
The following are additional community updates for your information.
Meritorious budget award. We are proud to announce that, for the fifth consecutive year, Rochester Community Schools was presented with the prestigious Association of School Business Officials International Meritorious Budget Award (MBA). The MBA promotes and recognizes excellence in school budget presentation and is conferred only to school districts whose budgets have undergone a rigorous review by finance professionals and have met or exceeded the program’s stringent criteria.
COVID-19 vaccination clinics. We are honored to continue to expand our partnerships to provide the community with convenient locations for vaccinations. The Oakland County Health Division’s clinic on Wednesday at Reuther Middle School was a huge success with more than 100 participants. Please continue to check your email for future opportunities coming in February and March. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that individuals five years of age and up are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine and that individuals 12 and up can get a booster after full vaccination.
COVID-19 testing. The federal government is offering free at-home COVID-19 test kits. Residential households in the U.S. can order one set of four free at-home tests. Please go to USPS.com for more information.
Board of Education work session. The Board of Education work session previously scheduled for Jan. 24, 2022, has been canceled. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. Please visit our website for more information.
2015 bond overview and accomplishments. As the district nears the completion of its $185 million bond program, we remain truly grateful for the community’s support. This strategic investment in our students has enabled us to make critical improvements throughout the district, specifically in the areas of school safety and security, technology, and infrastructure.
The following provides a brief summary of the bond program, which is also intended to serve as a point of pride for our community.
The bond program was an outgrowth of the RCS strategic plan. In 2014, the district engaged Plante Moran Cresa (PMC) to perform a facility assessment and financial analysis of its major buildings, technology, and infrastructure. This assessment identified more than $236 million in needs using a 10-year capital planning template.
District and community stakeholders continued to review the PMC assessment to further define the most critical needs that would need to be addressed over the next five years. Working with PMC, the district was able to prioritize the scope of the program and thus reduce the total outlay of expenditures by $51 million. Based on budget and capital planning evaluations, the board then approved a zero-tax increase, $185 million bond proposal, which was subsequently approved by an overwhelming majority of voters in November 2015.
Determining project schedules was a complex process; however, it was clear that school building renovations would take priority over administrative office repairs. Although the original PMC assessment performed in 2014 served as a very general guide throughout the process, changes were required along the way. Anyone who has ever renovated an older building knows that there are always unexpected challenges, and priorities need to shift to support more critical needs.
We are proud to share that all bond projects were completed on time and within the bond program budget.
Over the past six years, the bond program has benefitted every student in every school. We are grateful for the secure entrances; mechanical and electrical upgrades; interior renovations; skylight, door, window and roof replacements and repairs; new school buses; pre-K integration and the removal of portable classrooms; new playground equipment; stadium improvements; new pavement and concrete; 20,000 sq. ft. additions at Hugger, Musson, Brewster, and University Hills; the RCS Caring Steps Children’s Center renovation to meet the needs of our youngest learners; and the 30,000 sq. ft. expansion at the Dr. John M. Schultz Educational Campus to support adult education, the ACE program, and adult special education programs.
Now, more than ever, we are also grateful for our updated technology infrastructure including staff and student one-to-one devices, classroom technology, wireless network, secure entrances, video cameras and security monitors, door card access, phones, content filter, firewall, storage and backup systems, PA and audio systems, and school and bus radio systems, to name a few. Many of these technologies directly support the safety of our students and staff and security within our schools. They also enabled us to quickly transition to a remote learning environment within a mere three days during the pandemic.
The administration building remained the final project of the bond program so as to ensure the bulk of the funding supported student learning areas. Although $3.6 million from the bond program was budgeted for administrative building improvements, the reduced scope of the PMC assessment addressed only a small portion of the actual needs of the building. In 2019, the district contracted with a team of architectural, construction, commercial real estate broker and appraiser experts to evaluate the structure and provide an in-depth building condition assessment that also included identifying building standard and code deficiencies. This assessment was competed by Kingscott & Associates. As part of the assessment, Clark Construction Company estimated that it would cost the district approximately $20 million to renovate the structure, which would require an additional $16.4 million in funding from the general fund.
The Board of Education evaluated available options and subsequently approved the recommendation to purchase a building located on Dequindre Road within the City of Rochester for $7 million. The $3.6 million from the bond program would then be used to renovate the newly purchased building. It’s important to note that the district will continue to receive proceeds from renting a portion of the Dequindre Road building for two years, as well as from the sale of the property located at 501 W. University Drive, which will help offset costs.
Purchasing an existing, modern, energy-efficient building, versus renovating or constructing a new building, provides the least amount of financial impact to the district. This ensures that funding is available to support our mission of providing a quality education for our students.
Request for Proposal. Last week, we shared that the district issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for parties interested in purchasing the property and structure located at 501 W. University Drive in the City of Rochester. Information is posted on the district website. All proposals to purchase this site must be submitted in writing by March 28, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. using the required form in the proposal package. If any community member knows of a qualified buyer, please encourage them to submit a proposal. As shared in the RFP, RCS is interested in creative or unique proposals for alternative use or redevelopment that respects the history of the property and its place in the community.
We greatly appreciate our community’s support as we continue our work to maintain a quality learning environment that supports world-class programs and services for our students. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to use the Talk to RCS feature on our website.
Dr. Robert Shaner