Long-Range RUSD Facilities Plan is Unveiled

Dec. 2, 2019 10:05p 

(WGTD)----A long-range Racine Unified facilities plan that calls for the closure of some schools, the construction of new ones and the remodeling of others was unveiled at a school board work session Monday night. When all is said and done, RUSD would operate with four fewer buildings. 

The complex plan takes into account demographic changes, building ages and new academic approaches while trying to improve the overall learning environment and save money over the long run. "This is a plan that's really about kids and how we create better opportunities for student to be successful," said RUSD Chief Operations Officer Shannon Gordon. "We know from research that the third leading indicator of student success is learning environment," she said.

Even with several new schools having been built in recent years, the average age of school buildings in RUSD is 75 years, according to Gordon. 

The school board will be asked to formally endorse the plan at its Dec. 16th meeting, although officials stressed that each step in the five-phase plan is subject to revision and school board debate and approval.

The plan's first phase calls for the closing of Giese Elementary, replacing Red Apple Elementary with a new building and turning Schulte Elementary into a K-8 school under a new roof.  

Financing the improvements would come from a variety of sources, including the district's operational budget, state revenues, existing pots of money from prior referendums and going out and trying to gain voter approval to extend those existing authorizations. A top priority would be maintaining a stable tax rate, according to Marc Duff, Chief Financial Officer.

At Monday's meeting, board members seemed generally supportive of the plan.

Brian O'Connell called it a proactive approach to assessing long-term needs. "A lot of plans are, you know, 'we'll wait until it breaks then deal with it,'" he said.

The plan's five phases are not linked to a hard and fast timetable.