Monroe plans demolition and building projects

Posted at 5:34 PM, Nov 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-28 17:34:06-05

MONROE -- A demolition and a new middle school may be in Monroe Local School District’s future.

At their November meeting, school board members took steps toward demolishing the district’s former Lemon Monroe High School building, which has been vacant for years.

“It’s been a focus of our board to really find a final solution for the vacant property that’s sitting up there,” said board member Brett Guido. “It’s a safety issue.”

The district stopped using the building more than 10 years ago but rented it out to Tech and Middletown City Schools until about 2007.

“We, as a district, vacated the building in 2004, when they opened the new building,” Guido said.

This month the board commissioned a study to will help determine what the building’s demolition would cost.

“It’s going to provide the people that would bid on the demolition an exact scope to consider,” Guido said. “That’ll determine the final cost.”

“Once we get study back, we’ll go from there,” he added.

Although board members are in the early planning stages for the building’s demolition, community members helped make the decision by supporting the construction of the current high school.

Decision Made Long Ago

“The decision to demolish that building was really decided over a decade ago when the community passed the bond issue to pay for the new high school that we currently have,” Guido said.

The study board members approved was one of two recommendations by the district’s facilities advisory team. The team also recommended a new fifth- through eighth-grade middle school.

The committee, which includes board members and other Monroe residents, surveyed community members to establish which building to recommend replacing.

A new elementary, middle and high school were all supported, but the team determined the middle school would be the best option to accommodate student enrollment growth.

“They felt that the middle school’s where we should start,” said Superintendent Phil Cagwin.

The district experienced a 7 percent increase in enrollment – one of the highest in the state –from the 2012-13 to the 2013-14 school year. Student population increased again the following year by about 2.5 percent. While the growth has leveled off for now, the district’s schools are at, or close to, capacity.

Demolition Has Priority

The recommendation to build a new school will for now take the backseat to the potential demolition project.

“Right now the emphasis is going to be on the demolition,” Cagwin said.

Because new construction would require funding from both the state and local taxpayers, facilities advisory team members recommended securing funding before pursuing the project.

With a five-year emergency levy up for renewal in November of 2017, board members will consider how best to fund new construction in the coming months.

By keeping the construction and demolition projects separate, board members hope to make it clear that funding for the projects is separate as well. Board members expect to pay for the demolition using money from the district’s general fund.

“We’re not looking to do this project with additional taxpayer dollars,” Guido said.