EDITORIAL: Vote yes on Monroe school referendum

Construction of a new school will provide much needed space for the increasing population of students and won’t burden tax payers.

Before voters in Monroe head to the polls on Tuesday, they should take a drive over to Brookside School, where 12 trailers are being used as classrooms.
   Or perhaps they can take a ride over to Barclay Brook, Applegarth or the high school, which boast a total of 19 trailers.
   The trailers are tangible evidence that the $26.8 million elementary school plan on the ballot Tuesday is sorely needed.
   The district has been experiencing explosive growth in recent years, growth that officials expect to continue well into the future. The school officials estimate total enrollment in the district — which currently stands at about 4,700 — to grow by between 300 and 350 students annually for the next half dozen years.
   As things stand, the district does not have room for the new students — hence, the trailers (the district plans to install 30 more portable classrooms next year) and the plan (approved by voters and the Statehouse Commission) to build a new high school across Schoolhouse Road on a 35-acre portion of Thompson Park.
   The trailers, however, are only a temporary solution. The district needs more elementary school classrooms, especially in the southwestern corner of town, where much of the new housing is being built.
   That’s what this plan will do. It calls for construction of a new 80,275-square-foot school that would feature a 6,110-square-foot gymnasium, a 5,489-square-foot media center and a 2,846-square-foot cafeteria/auditorium. It would have 28 classrooms, four rooms for small-group instruction, a music room, a kitchen and office and storage space.
   The school would be built across from Applegarth Middle School on Applegarth Road and is expected to open as a grade K-5 school in 2008. However, the school would be designed so that it can be easily converted to a K-2 facility (18 of the 28 classrooms having direct access to restrooms) when the new high school opens in 2011, the current high school is converted to a middle school and Applegarth is converted to grades 3-5 building in 2001.
   If approved, the plan would carry a 1.98-cent increase in the school tax rate. At that rate, the owner of a house assessed at the township average of $160,100 would pay $2,889 in school taxes, an increase of about $32.
   That’s not a lot of money to ask, especially when you consider that it costs the district about $1.5 million a year for trailers.
   Vote "yes" on Tuesday.