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RCS plans expansion for RMS

At an expected cost of $1.5 million, the Russellville Middle School will soon gain eight new classrooms, including new bathrooms, two special education classrooms and a science lab.

At a meeting dominated by discussion and approval of the system’s strategic plan, Superintendent Heath Grimes announced that RCS has contracted with an architect to draw up the plans for the addition to the middle school and bid out the construction, with the total project estimated at $1.5-2 million of reserve funds. The expansion is necessitated by the large fifth grade class that will rise to the middle school next year – when compared against the rising eight grade class, RMS will have a net increase of 50 students.

“We do not have a single closet we could put another teacher in,” Grimes said.

In an ideal world, the construction will be completed by the beginning of next school year, but Grimes said he and the board aware that such a quick turnaround is unlikely. RCS is working to develop a contingency plan to accommodate students in the event the new construction is not quite completed by the first day of school 2017. “This is the most realistic, feasible and immediate (need),” Grimes said.

Dr. Karen Thorn, RMS principal, said she is elated that progress is moving forward on the middle school addition. “I’m thrilled. We have been out of space since I’ve been at Russellville, really,” she said. “I have some teachers who are having to share a room because they don’t have enough space … This is much needed, and I’m very excited about it.

“Right now we’re on top of each other. There’s no room.”

Strategic plan

Dominating Thursday’s meeting was a presentation of Russellville City Schools Strategic Plan 2016, which Grimes said will direct the system’s actions and priorities for the next five years. The plan was developed based on responses to a survey RCS conducted earlier in the area, soliciting responses from all stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members and leaders.

The strategic plan incorporates a clearly-defined mission, vision and set of beliefs (beliefs in regards to excellence, relationship, character and community). As part of the plan, the following strategic objectives were identified:

  • Provide engaging experiences by offering a myriad of opportunities to ensure student academic growth and character development.
  • Provide collaborative opportunities for building relationships within the school community.
  • Maintain highly qualified personnel through recruiting, training and growing employees.
  • Prioritize use of our resources to efficiently and effectively achieve student success while maintaining adequate reserves.
  • Maintain an environment that complements the system’s overarching mission and vision.

That mission? “Pursuing excellence … Impacting the lives of our students, our community, our world.” The vision stipulates: “RCS will be recognized as a leader in our state for excellence in academic growth. We will reach all students through relationships, character building, and strong community involvement, while providing first class facilities, technology and engaging educational experiences.”

“Our vision is something we know we will never completely attain, but it’s something we’re always striving for,” Grimes said.

Grimes said the strategic plan reflects a focus on the strengths, weakness and opportunities identified by survey respondents, from a total of 1,108 responses from all quadrants sections of the city. He said the plan is truly designed around what the community stakeholders have indicated they desire for Russellville City Schools.

“The community said, ‘One of the main things we really want you to teach our children is character and responsibility skills,” Grimes said, pointing out one of the top priorities indicated through survey responses. Other priorities were providing safe, secure and adequate facilities with a focus on campus security; providing the newest technology to enhance instruction and ensure teacher training integrates technology into curriculum; ensuring students receive instruction at an appropriate level; and developing critical thinking and problem solving skills.

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