Within reach

Voters will determine the direction of the district with Prop T, Tuesday, April 4

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Haden Moore

Trevor Fischer (11) interacts with a Mars Rover replica, built by students from Missouri University of Science and Technology, March 27. The S&T students gave Fischer some parts and asked him where he thought the part should go. He experimented. “I wasn’t even kind-of right,” Fischer said. “But something like this shows that we are taking big steps forward.”

Between 2010-2020, the biomedical engineering jobs will increase by 62 percent, medical scientist jobs will increase by 36 percent and systems software developer jobs will increase by 32 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“We are a modernizing world,” Brock Pope (12) said. “If schools don’t keep up, we’re not going to be able to keep up with these advanced ideas and with new technology.”

Tuesday, April 4, voters will determine if the district can keep up with the world around it. Rockwood residents will vote for Proposition T (Thrive).

Prop T is a $95.5 million bond issue. School districts use bond issues for capital improvements (construction) that are beyond the scope of the school’s operating budget. The passing of this bond issue will not increase residents’ property tax. Prop T requires a 57.14 percent majority.

Prop T addresses needs created by increasing enrollment and demands placed on learning in an advanced-technological age. The district is asking voters to fund construction on various schools and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.

The money will be distributed to six different projects:

  • The new elementary school is expected to cost $18.5 million.
  • Innovative learning spaces will cost $41.8 million to further equip and renovate the S.T.E.M. laboratories.
  • Technology for the district is anticipated to cost $12 million to expand the implementation of the one-to-one technology program and to replace computers, projection devices and aged network equipment.
  • The district predicts that classrooms need to be added at Geggie Elementary and renovations are needed for the multi-purpose room at Wildwood Middle School, costing them $6.6 million.
  • Another project would need $8.5 million for “cycle maintenance,” which is for new roofing, flooring, heating/cooling, playgrounds, parking lots, safety needs and energy efficiency improvements at various schools in the district.
  • Architectural, engineering and contingency needs $8.1 million for the districts in-house construction management process that has been developed to ensure the district is accountable for bond issue funds.

If the prop passes, the Eureka quadrant is slated to receive…

  • A new elementary school to replace a crowded Eureka Elementary that would also serve the children of the people who will be occupying the new housing development off of Workman/Brewster Road.
  • Classrooms to Geggie Elementary.
  • A new two-story science building addition to EHS to support S.T.E.M. education.

“The cool thing about Prop T is that it combines adding spaces, adding classrooms with our efforts to continue wrapping up S.T.E.M. and innovative learning.Superintendent Eric Knost said.

District leadership is subscribing to the idea that S.T.E.M. education is essential to “the U.S. remaining the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.”

“These courses are basically teaching the kids skills necessary to use the technology that is available,” Mike Thebeau, Science teacher, said. “They learn techniques that a lot of kids won’t get to in college and even beyond medical school sometimes. They are starting to put those into practice here in the high school classroom.”

The emphasis on experiential learning and problem solving are characteristic of these learning environment.

“I’m in intro to engineering design,” Jack Borror (11) said. “It gives you lots of hands-on learning to assemble, disassemble and see how things are created, which I think will help later on when new technologies come out.”

Gaining the new space for S.T.E.M. laboratories and classrooms will launch RSD students past their peers outside of the district.

“It’s going to be innovative space where teachers who have the training now are looking forward to having that time and the space to work with kids,” Gilman said. “lt will be more long-term projects so kids can really learn over the long haul.”

In a world where people walk around with computers in their pockets, a complex future is not hard to predict.

“There’s not really a field you could go into where you’re not going to need knowledge that’s not going to relate to S.T.E.M.” Audrey Rollins (11) said. “I am going to need that in the medical field, so it’s important to put people on the pathway to that field if they’re interested in that.”

HOW THE EUREKA QUADRANT BENEFITS FROM PROP T

McBride and Son is preparing to build about 2,300 houses in the Arbors of Rockwood neighborhood over the next five years. Neighborhoods in the district’s boundaries are growing, specifically in the Eureka community.

These houses pose a problem for the district: little space and lots of students.

If Prop T does not pass, Knost warns the district may need to undergo major redistricting. District lines would need to be redrawn. He warned that everyone in Rockwood would feel the affects. Students would have to adjust to attending an unfamiliar school and students would be separated from their friends.

Pope can’t imagine that reality.

“I’ve always grown up being in this area,” Pope said. “I’ve had some of the same friends since I was in kindergarten, so we are a really close-knit group, and it’s easy for us to get along and work together in school situations.”

Bonds like these could be severed all over the school district, especially in the EHS community where so many new homes are coming.

“You have to be prepared for that increase of students and increase to the enrollment,” Charles Crouther, head principal, said. “That will probably be when Prop T passes next Tuesday the first focus to work on.”

IF PROP T PASSES

If Prop T passes, two major changes will be carried out throughout the district:

  • Gaining space to control growing class sizes.
  • Updated classrooms to foster innovative learning.

“One of the other very important things about Prop T is to keep class sizes at least as they are now but–more importantly–to have them reduced,” Crouther said.

If a school has more space to put classrooms, then they have room to offer a wider variety of classes.

“A lot of time for high schools, it is a little different because you are not only looking at class sizes but you are also looking at program situation, if a small number of students take a course in a school that is hurting for space, that course will not be offered,” Knost said. “But with more space you can expand programs a little more.”

A new Eureka Elementary school in the the Arbors of Rockwood will address the increased student enrollment. The elementary school would be expected to open August 2019.

The existing Eureka Elementary school will be transformed into a school for early childhood education and Rockwood School District programs.

“If we pull early childhood classes into the existing Eureka Elementary, we don’t have to add those classrooms to the new school,” Knost said.

Nearby railroad tracks and a highway prevent any possible expansion.

“Since the school was built in 1952, we haven’t done enough upgrades to the school,” Knost said. “The new elementary school will be much bigger and will be able to handle many more students.”

In addition to the changes at Eureka Elementary, classrooms will be added to Geggie Elementary, Marquette High School and Wildwood Middle School.

Knost believes that experiential activities and innovative technologies engage more students. Knost referred to S.T.E.M. as S.T.E.M.+, emphasizing the importance of all disciplines to the development of the whole learner, during an EHS faculty meeting, March 6.

“It’s something we need to be preparing for because in today’s society there are a lot careers that are focused on S.T.E.M.,” Josh Margherita (10) said. “I am probably going to be in one and a lot of other people are going into engineering and medical fields. Science, technology, engineering and math are all very important in those, and it’s definitely something we need to invest in.”

Not only do students who obtain S.T.E.M. degrees have a higher income, but studies show that S.T.E.M. occupations are growing at a rate of 17 percent, whereas other occupations are only growing at 9.8 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The US Department of Education projected that jobs will increase more in the S.T.E.M. field than in any other field from 2010-2020.

“If kids are wanting to go into S.T.E.M. careers, then I think it is EHS’ responsibility to make sure they’re prepared for it.” Emily Jones (11) said.

Prop T will fund the construction of the innovative learning spaces in the Rockwood schools. These spaces will become collaborative K-5 classrooms that are equipped for S.T.E.M.+.

EHS is not the only school benefitting from these expansions and renovations. Each Rockwood quadrant will have space built onto their schools to create classrooms focusing on S.T.E.M.+.

The S.T.E.M.+ classrooms will accommodate both class lessons and hands-on experiments in one room rather than booking and traveling to a laboratory.

“I think it will allow more teachers to get involved in that movement because there will be more space and more equipment to pursue different avenues where right now you’re confined or constrained in certain areas,” Thebeau said.

NOW WHAT

With the future of Rockwood hanging in the balance, it’s the voters who will determine the type of future they want for their students, their schools and their community.

Without the support of Prop T, the Eureka that students and families love will fall behind.

“It’s up to the educational system to not fail us as students,” Pope said. “But it’s up to the students to pursue those things as well.”
Don’t forget to vote this Tuesday.