In 2017, voters in the Rockwood School District approved Proposition Thrive [Prop T] allowing the district to issue general obligation bonds and borrow $95.5 million to upgrade and furnish facilities for multiple district schools.
Today, the new Eureka Elementary School is taking shape to help accommodate an influx of students in time for the 2019-2020 school year.
The proposed school is a two-story facility of more than 108,000 square feet, which will accommodate about 600 students. It is the district’s first new school building since the establishment of Fairway Elementary in 2004.
“We feel good about it,” Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost said. “We’re issuing bonds as we go, based on when we need them. We don’t want to hold money that we don’t need, and I think that we’ve done that effectively.”
The estimated budget for Eureka Elementary is about $18.5 million, according to Prop T literature.
The building will sit on about 13.5 acres off Rockwood Arbors Drive near Workman Road and Six Flags St. Louis. The site also is home to the Arbors of Rockwood, a McBride & Son Homes neighborhood that features multiple villa and single-family homes and about 164 acres of common ground. In addition to the new elementary school, the neighborhood also boasts a dog park, public pavilions, walking trails and a community lake.
According to Knost, the main purpose for constructing the elementary school is to comfortably accommodate the influx of new students due to the construction of multiple new neighborhoods, with the Arbors of Rockwood only serving as one example. Overall, the district expects to see the addition of over 2,300 new family homes in the area over the next five years.
The new school will help the district to keep class sizes within or below the standards designated by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education [DESE]. Currently, Rockwood’s preferred class sizes consist of about 20 students in kindergarten through second grade and 23 students per class in grades five and six. DESE standards suggest about 25 students in kindergarten through second grade and 30 students for grades five and six.
“It’s just a philosophical goal of mine to keep those class sizes down, and with 2,300 incoming homes, that’s really what we built Prop T around,” Knost said.
Along with the new elementary school, new classrooms will be added at Geggie Elementary, along with repurposing the existing Eureka Elementary school for early childhood education and RSD programs.
A large part of Prop T was the funding of collaborative elementary spaces equipped to teach STEM [science, technology, education and math] lessons, including computer programming, robotics, engineering and 3D design. According to Knost, the addition of a new school allows for innovative spaces to be constructed more efficiently alongside other amenities, like labs and libraries.
“In essence, teachers can take lessons out of the classroom and into those innovative spaces,” Knost said. “Teachers can maybe teach math lessons designed around something project-based and experiment with robotics pieces, or conduct science experiments and other lessons. It’s really a resource for teachers as well as preparing kids for the 21st century.”
Prop T provided about $41.8 million for the creation of specified STEM spaces in all Rockwood elementary schools as well as an estimated $12 million for the replacement of outdated technology.
“This allows us to catch up on all the updates with one fell swoop with a much more appropriate building that’s more conducive to how we teach kids today,” Knost said. “It is space designed around the needs of our elementary kids, and we’re thrilled about that.
Competitive bids for the construction of the new elementary school will continue through the beginning of March with the goal of having contractor options to bring before the Board of Education for approval at its March 22 meeting. Webster Groves-based Dickinson Hussman will serve as the project’s architect.
“Things are coming to fruition,” Knost said. “It’ll be exciting to get those bids back and select a contractor that will be mobilizing quickly.”
Knost said construction on the new Eureka Elementary is scheduled to begin by mid-April.