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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Rochester School Board voted Tuesday evening to approve a list of significant changes to the local school system's operations for the next school year.

What has been dubbed Version 3 of the Attendance Options Redesign plan passed on a 6-1 vote. The plan was developed by Superintendent Kent Pekel and other staff to address a decline in enrollment and to implement later start times for high school students while shifting elementary students back to an earlier start time.

Pekel. Rochester Public Schools
Pekel. Rochester Public Schools

“These changes are necessary, and we know that aspects of the proposal have been difficult for some in our community to support,” says Superintendent Dr. Kent Pekel. “Now that the Board has taken action, we will turn to implementing these changes effectively. We will continue to solicit feedback from the RPS community on the implementation, just as we did on the proposal.”

Rochester Public Schools
Rochester Public Schools

Pekel unveiled the first version of the plan in November but then made sweeping revisions earlier this month after Mayo Clinic announced a $10 million donation in late December to help the school district weather a looming budget shortfall. The donation allowed the Superintendent to cancel several proposed school closures, but under the plan adopted by the School Board, students at Pinewood Elementary in southeast Rochester will be moved next fall to Longfellow Elementary School and will share the building with the 45-15 alternative schedule program.

The changes approved as Version 3 are listed below.

  1. Move Pinewood Elementary into the building currently occupied by Longfellow Elementary and operate Longfellow and Pinewood as two schools within the same building, one of which will operate on the 45-15 calendar and one of which will operate on the traditional calendar.
  2. Move the Spanish Immersion program from its current location at Gage Elementary and Willow Creek Middle School into the building currently occupied by Riverside Elementary. This move will be implemented in two phases: the K-5 program will move to the Riverside building for the 2024-2025 school year, and the middle school program will move to Riverside for the 2025-2026 school year.
  3. Make the following changes to the school district’s current attendance boundaries:   
    1. A neighborhood where students used to walk to John Adams but have been bussed to Dakota for the past two school years will return to the John Adams walk zone.
    2. A neighborhood where students used to walk to Mayo High School but have been bussed to Century High School will return to the Mayo High School walk zone.
    3. A neighborhood and a developing area west of Hy-Vee on West Circle Drive that is currently shared by Sunset Terrace and Gibbs will be assigned to Sunset Terrace Elementary School.
  4. Revise the level of transportation service provided to current districtwide option schools (DWOs) to provide them with transportation within regions of the school district rather than from any location within the school district boundaries.
  5. Revise the school attendance system to enable families who do not live in the attendance area of an elementary school or middle school that is not a districtwide option school to enroll their student in the school if all of the spaces at the school are not filled by students who live in the attendance area and the family can provide transportation to and from the school.
  6. Expand the Montessori program located within Franklin Elementary to fill the spaces that will no longer be occupied by approximately 120 students who live in the Longfellow attendance area and currently receive transportation to Franklin Elementary because their families have indicated they do not want to send their student to a school that uses the 45-15 calendar.
  7. Expand the Newcomers program for students who are new to the country by offering the program at Gage and Franklin elementary schools, Kellogg and Willow Creek middle schools, and Century, John Marshall, and Mayo high schools.
  8. Expand the School Age Child Care (SACC) program to provide more students and families with high-quality care before and after school.
  9. Create a middle school alternative learning center (ALC) for students who perform substantially below grade level, have experienced physical or emotional abuse, struggle with mental health concerns, are homeless or have recently been in transition from homelessness, or have withdrawn from school or are chronically truant.

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