Nov. 3 Bond Proposal to Fund Infrastructure Improvements for Rochester Schools

NOTE: This piece was submitted to Rochester Media by the Citizens Committee for Rochester Community Schools

The aging buildings and critical infrastructure needs of Rochester Community Schools (RCS) could be addressed if voters approve a Nov. 3 bond proposal that would provide $185 million for facility improvements and repairs, with no tax increase. If the proposal passes, new bonds would replace expiring ones, and the current tax rate would be extended for five years.

The RCS district encompasses 521 acres of property, including 22 school buildings, 2.8 million square feet of asphalt, and 33 miles of fiber connecting the district’s technology networks. The proposed funding would be used to keep the district’s facilities, equipment and technology in good working condition, and would enhance student safety and security. Improvements would be made throughout every level of the district, most notably: five buildings need new roofs at a cost of approximately $1 million each; the district’s data backup system is 98.6% full, requiring extensive upgrades; the bleachers at Rochester High School have urgent foundation problems; 17 portable classrooms would be removed and relocated inside permanent buildings; and 64 buses will need to be replaced within five years.

“We have superb teachers, high-achieving students, and outstanding programs, but we need to deal with the reality of our aging buildings and infrastructure,” said Robert Shaner, Ph.D., superintendent of Rochester Community Schools. “Our critical needs are costly, but necessary, and expected, given the age of our schools. We are fortunate to have an opportunity to remedy these issues while maintaining our current tax rate.”

The district underwent a thorough assessment process and issued the Technology & Infrastructure 2020 Report (TI2020), which prioritized and designated needs as either: critical (needing attention in 1-3 years), deferrable (to be addressed in 4-6 years), or property enhancement (targeted for 7-10 years). Although every building has its own specific needs, certain upgrades will be made to all facilities across the district.

Michael Zabat, a member of the RCS Board of Education, a mechanical engineer, and member of the nearly 50-person TI2020 committee, said the district-wide assessment originally identified $236 million in needs, but the committee studied and prioritized the proposed projects to agree upon the $185 million total. “We are looking to improve equity and efficiency in every school,” he said.

“I’m happy that the committee identified securing building entrances and providing network infrastructure across the district as top priorities,” said Barb Anness, who has two children in the district and served on the TI2020 committee. “Regarding safety, RCS would use the bond to reconfigure building entrances, so all guests would enter into a secure office or vestibule to be screened before being granted access to public hallways. Also, as wireless technologies have advanced and the number of wireless devices has increased, RCS needs to increase its network reach, bandwidth and efficiency to accommodate more users, more applications, and more opportunities.”

The proposed bond-funded projects fall into seven basic categories:

  • Improve student safety and security.
  • Address critical needs in roofs, electrical and mechanical areas.
  • Upgrade technology and technology infrastructure.
  • Establish permanent spaces for Pre-K, adult and special education.
  • Improve classroom and school interiors.
  • Improve playgrounds, school sites, athletic fields and fine arts facilities.
  • Replace school buses as they reach the end of their useful life.

“These comprehensive improvements will benefit every student, in every grade, and every building,” said Lisa Kowalski, who leads the Citizens Committee for Rochester Community Schools. “We are excited that programs from preschool all the way through adult education are valued and represented in the bond upgrades. The TI2020 plan supports ALL students in the district.”

Jeffrey Cuthbertson, Rochester mayor, says he endorses the RCS bond and believes that high-quality schools are a major reason people choose to live in this community. “Rochester is a vibrant place to live, and we need to continue attracting young families who will raise their children here and educate them in Rochester Community Schools. Our nationally acclaimed schools help us attract businesses, residents, and a well-educated workforce. There is a direct correlation between high-performing schools and local property values,” Cuthbertson said.

Jenny McCardell, a Rochester Hills resident agrees. She moved to the area five years ago so her children could attend University Hills Elementary. “Investing in schools is important to parents with children, of course. But investing in public education benefits everybody in the community, since a quality school district is a major resource and indicator of a quality community overall,” she said. “Plus, well-maintained school grounds and buildings look welcoming to newcomers, especially when the portable classrooms are removed with this bond. RCS students are already receiving a quality education; I think they deserve a quality learning environment as well. I feel very blessed to be part of this community and I feel responsible for helping to sustain it.”

More information about the bond proposal, including detailed building breakdowns, costs, and voter instructions can be found at Click the TI2020 Voter Information button. You can also visit the Citizens Committee website at: or go to Facebook and follow the Citizens Committee for Rochester Community Schools.

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