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Debate on where to build new RPS middle school continues

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- There's a new wrinkle in the plan to build a new campus for Rochester Public Schools. Someone is offering land, but not where the district wants to build.

Officials with both the city and the district, largely agree there's a need for a new middle school, but the hangup seems to be about where to build it.

For some time, the school district has liked a plot of land in the southwest part of town known as the Hart Farm site. Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Michael Muñoz says this location would best fit the needs of the district's growing enrollment.

Proposed site for new middle school in southwest Rochester

He also says a traffic study shows no major changes to the infrastructure would be needed to build there. Muñoz adds, hooking up to the city's sewer and water had already been built into the budget, regardless of where the new school was built.

"I think people need to understand that we just didn't one day decide 'hey this is a great place to build a school'," said Muñoz. "We looked at housing studies, we looked at our enrollment, we looked at potential boundaries, and we looked at a lot of things that's why we have always come back to the southwest location."

But, a landowner in northwest Rochester has offered to donate up to 40 acres of land that could be used to build a new middle school. The city claims there is a lack of infrastructure near the Hart Farm land and says the necessary access is already at the offered property.

Proposed donated land to build new middle school in northwest Rochester

"As we look at where growth is going, where infrastructure goes, usually is a precursor to where growth goes," said Rochester City Administrator Steve Rymer. "And so we also want to make sure that the investment we make with public dollars is consistent and complies with the comprehensive plan."

Muñoz also mentioned that district officials are waiting on results of a busing study looking into the impact of having a school on either the northwest or southwest part of town.

Both parties are continuing to work together to try and find a location that will fit the needs of both the school district and the city.

Sarah Gannon

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