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Possible new middle school site draws mixed reviews from city and homeowners

KAAL-TV
Updated: December 04, 2019 08:47 AM
Created: December 03, 2019 06:55 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- This past November, voters in the Rochester Public School District approved a more than $180 million referendum, giving the district the "green-light" to move forward with a number of projects including the construction of a new middle school.

There's already been a proposed site in southwest Rochester and it's drawing mixed reviews from not only the city but homeowners who may soon have a new school as their neighbor.
 
 "You know, we looked at future housing; where they're going to be built and what type of housing... and we landed on the southwest," says Superintendent Michael Muñoz.

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The Rochester Public School District began this project back June of 2018 when the district looked into the capacity issues their schools were facing.

A task force was assembled, made up of community members, parents and district employees, with the goal to look at housing data and enrollment projections.

This ultimately leads to the decision to build a new middle school in the southwestern portion of Rochester. 
 
At first, the total acreage was just shy of 150 acres; the school district says the reason for such a large plot of land would be to account for the possibility of building a new high school and elementary on the same campus as the proposed middle school.

After the first meeting, after looking at their long term development plan, the 150-acre plot was reduced to 80 acres following the pre-2040 development plan that the city of Rochester has.

"We formally told them that we are going to be requesting that piece of land to be annexed. Mid-December we have to submit that application, it goes into the planning committee for their January meeting to look at," says Superintendent Michael Muñoz. 
 
Following that January meeting, Muñoz says a decision about whether or not to annex the 80 acres will be decided in February.

Should the Rochester City Council decide to not allow the 80 acres to become annexed, Muñoz says there's enough money budgeted so that the school(s) would have their own sewer and water.

If the city council decides to annex the land, taxes may increase but that hasn't been decided quite yet. One resident of Hart Farms says that he's okay with seeing his taxes increase as long as they are "reasonable".

The school district also has back up sites in mind as well.
 
Another concern among homeowners of the Hart Farms neighborhood is traffic if it increases what will be done to control it?

Superintendent Muñoz says that the school district has been working alongside a consultant for the City of Rochester who recommends putting in speed bumps.

Homeowners in the area say there's a large number of small children and their safety is their top priority.

For those whose property faces the site where the school will go, they're upset they may lose their views, however, one resident said that since he and his wife are thinking about starting a new family the possibility of a new school is appealing.
 
Another concern shared among the homeowners that ABC 6 News spoke to is classroom overcapacity.

A press release sent out ahead of the 2019 school referendum highlighted the capacity that the Rochester Public Schools are operating at. Both elementary and middle school capacity is at 98% or higher while high school is at 94%.

Superintendent Muñoz says that the additional middle school, and extra land for "additional growth" the referendum budgeted for, will help break up the student to teacher ratio.  


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