MOLINE -- Advocates of a $15-million bond referendum for the Rockridge School District say it will free the district of problems now found at three aging elementary schools.
If approved in the March 18 referendum, the bonds would be used to build a new elementary school in Edgington and eliminate schools in Andalusia, Illinois City and Taylor Ridge. The proposed school would be built on the southern edge of the main Rockridge campus that already includes the high school and junior high school.
On Tuesday, Herbert Schultz and Sarah Bohnsack, of Rockridge Forward, a group promoting the referendum, and Rockridge school superintendent Chester Lien spoke with an editorial board of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus.
Mr. Schultz said the district currently is not providing students with quality facilities in which to learn.
The new building would house up to 515 students, from preschool to fifth grade, with room for growth.
The current elementary schools in Andalusia, Taylor Ridge and Illinois City -- all built in the 1950s -- are showing their age, according to the bond backers. The buildings' physical needs -- updated security, new roofs and new electrical systems -- are being outpaced by technology, the three said.
During the next 20 years, the three buildings are expected to cost the district $8 million to maintain. Boilers, plumbing and other systems are as old as the schools; none of the buildings have air conditioning.
The current district arrangement also separates students by grade. Children attend schools in Illinois City and Taylor Ridge up to second grade, then go to Andalusia through fifth grade before attending junior high in Edgington.
The referendum advocates said the current arrangement makes collaboration difficult between the teachers and other staff in different buildings.
Currently, Rockridge is using gyms at some of the elementary schools as cafeteria space, limiting their use. Instead of a centralized library within the buildings, books are divided between different classrooms.
The proposed building would include secured entrances to control visitors' entry, hardened areas for extreme weather and dedicated space for a cafeteria, a gym and a multimedia library. Staff also would be centralized, improving communication and providing more resources for all students, the referendum supporters said.
Mr. Lien said the new school would have the same number of teachers but would see savings in administration and other staffing areas. He could not provide specific details about those projected savings on Tuesday. Overall, the new school is expected to save the district about $375,000 annually.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Lien, Mr. Schultz and Ms. Bohnsack spoke about the proposed 1 percent school facilities sales tax to aid Rock Island County schools, which also will appear on the March 18 ballot.
Rockridge currently receives about $7,000 in facilities sales tax revenue from Mercer County. If the Rock Island proposal passes, the district expects to receive nearly $600,000 annually in such sales tax support.
Should both referendums pass on March 18, the Rockridge school district could use revenue from the new sales tax in October to start upgrading the high school. If the sales tax referendum is approved but the bond question fails, portions of the new sales tax revenue would have to be used to maintain the three aging elementary schools, Mr. Lien said.
Rockridge Forward has a website with a tax calculator at rockridgeforward.com.