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Rockwood uses summer months for district, facility updates

There was no summer break for Rockwood facilities employees as they strove to complete summer tasks, including the preparation of 30 elementary, middle and high schools to welcome students back this past August.

While Rockwood encompasses 150-square-miles, the primary focus was on its southwest corner of Eureka Elementary and Eureka High, according to Facilities Director Chris Freund.

Using funds from the passing of the 2017 bond issue totaling $95.5 million, the newly constructed 108,000-square-foot Eureka Elementary opened to 337 students this fall. The school is located at 5350 Rockwood Arbor Drive, adjacent to the Arbors of Rockwood subdivision in Eureka.

While Rockwood’s overall enrollment has slightly declined each year over the last decade, with the exception of the 2017-18 school year, the trend has shown signs of changing. 

With recent residential subdivision developments, including the Arbors of Rockwood and other neighborhoods in the Eureka corridor, the district is increasing its schools’ footprints to accommodate the growing numbers. Currently, the middle schools in that quadrant, LaSalle Springs and Wildwood, are able to handle the influx of students.

“With a combined $57 million in construction costs, this is the largest amount of money I can recall Rockwood spending in one summer,” Freund said.

With Eureka Elementary making the move three miles down the road, the staff of the new Eureka Early Childhood Center has been busy moving into its new home at the same facility that used to house the elementary school. The library is now the hub for Parents as Teachers for the entire district, which didn’t exist before the move to its new home.

Renovations to Eureka High’s parking lot were another priority, mainly to address flooding from 2015 and 2017. According to Freund, the flooding primarily hit the athletic facility on the south side but did not infiltrate the entire building. Increasing the slab height to 18 inches will help prevent water from entering the 100-year flood mark. The school’s counseling and administrative offices also were under construction this summer.

Construction over the next year will create a 93,000-square-foot, two-story STEM addition at Eureka High.

The planning process is also underway for a similar STEM lab at Marquette High, where work is scheduled to be completed over the 2020 and 2021 summers. Through the bond issue, one classroom in each elementary school will receive a STEM innovation room, with Ballwin Elementary’s to be completed this summer.

To address the safety and welfare of students and staff, safety film has been added to windows, which are shatter-resistant in an emergency or natural disaster. Additionally, strategically placed safety bollards and barricade planters safeguard pedestrian areas from vehicles.

The final element of improvements is considered the cyclical maintenance, which includes HVAC, plumbing, electrical and flooring work throughout the district, with the biggest investment in flooring.

“This is the less visible aspect of our facilities work,” Freund said. “Building infrastructure has to be maintained or it will cost the district in the long run.”

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