For a district with more students than space, Monroe Local Schools must address the issue through short- and long-term solutions.
The Monroe School Board and City Council held a joint meeting Monday night at the police station and the message was clear from Superintendent Robert Buskirk, who said the district is “very overcrowded.”
He said the district hopes to receive as much as 71% of the construction cost from the state and build a new school, possibly within the next four years.
From 2012-13 to 2021-2022, the district grew from 2,453 students to 2,799, or 14%, according to an enrollment chart Buskirk distributed. He said the district saw enrollment increases about every except for 2020-21 when more students took on-line courses, withdrew or parents chose not to start their children in kindergarten, all due to COVID-19 concerns.
Buskirk said the district is growing 40 to 50 students a year and he estimated this year’s enrollment at 2,850.
“People want to be here,” he said. “We should all be proud of that.”
But the district’s two buildings are not equipped to handle that many students, he said. The main campus, built in 2004, was designed for 1,850 students and it has 2,300, according to Buskirk.
To combat the overcrowding, the district plans this summer to divide two classrooms by adding walls, thus doubling the space, and it may use portable classrooms next year or build an athletic storage complex and move some equipment there to free up classroom space.
Those are possible short-term solutions.
But the district needs to build a new school and hopes to qualify for state assistance, Buskirk said.
The district was prepared to ask voters to pass a bond levy five years ago until those plans were delayed by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). When it was time for Monroe to receive state funding, it was told the state approved too many districts for funding.
At the time, Monroe expected to receive 49% of the construction costs from the state. That’s when Monroe was ranked the 17th wealthiest district in Ohio, according to the formula. School Board President Dave Grant told city council it was difficult to understand the formula since two of the richest districts in the region, Indian Hill and Sycamore, were ranked 35th and in the 40s, respectively.
The state evaluates districts annually, and the percentage Monroe would receive has increased dramatically, according to Busnick. He said Monroe would receive 71% of the construction costs and residents would be asked to pass a bond levy to cover the remaining 29%.
He said the 71% was “a huge number.”
Monroe hopes to learn soon whether it qualified for the latest round of state funding. If so, it will be able to “lock in” that percentage. He said it would take at least two years to pass a levy and two years to build a new school.