State education officials have told Monroe school officials their plans for building a new school will have to be delayed a year. Monroe school officials said they were surprised by the news but intend to continue to seek state funding for a new pre-kindergarten to fourth grade elementary school to relieve overcrowding. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Monroe’s plan to relieve overcrowding in schools delayed

State tells Monroe Schools to hold off on new school.

The Monroe school system remains on the eligibility list for state funding to help build a new elementary school, but the district has been lowered — through no fault of the local schools — according to criteria used by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC).

“It’s very disappointing,” said Monroe Board of Education President Brett Guido.

The district had planned on being approved this year for nearly half of the multi-million project that would have brought a new pre-kindergarten through fourth grade school building to relieve overcrowding in Monroe’s two schools.

MORE: Monroe school officials say overcrowding forces need for new school

Monroe officials were expecting good news earlier this month from OFCC officials but instead learned from them about a larger-than-anticipated number of other eligible Ohio school districts seeking similar funding have placed school tax issues on the May ballot.

Monroe officials had planned to put a bond tax issue on the November ballot — which OFCC rules require voter approval before about 50 percent of funding would be paid for by the state.

The result of the eligibility reshuffling has Monroe Schools remaining eligibility for state funding but not until 2019.

Jesse Catanzaro, director of operations for Monroe Schools, said “they (OFCC officials) moved the finish line on us.”

MORE: 5 things to know about Monroe Schools

For residents in the growing Monroe school system it means they likely will not see any ballot tax issues seeking a rise in property taxes until November 2019.

The now, more likely scenario — if voters approve a yet-to-be determined amount of tax millage increase in 2019 — would be for a new school opening in November 2021 instead of fall 2020 as originally planned, said Catanzaro.

During Monday’s board meeting, members voted unanimously to make the new school’s grade configuration a pre-K to 4th grade building, should it be constructed.

MORE: Monroe board hires new school superintendent

Last year the board approved the new school’s location on the 29 acres that the district owns between Macready Avenue and Elm Street, which includes the campus of the current but aged and too small Monroe Primary School.

The district’s Primary building, constructed in 1954, was designed to house 339 students and currently has 470 students enrolled. The district’s 2-12 building was opened in 2004 and was designed for 1,883 students. There are currently 2,410 students attending the school.

“The planning for the new school is all done,” said Guido. “The need (for expansion) is still there and will now only become more dire.”

Board members said they are exploring various options to handle overcrowding including the possibility of constructing eight temporary classrooms in the junior high school’s gym or using portable classroom trailers on school grounds for additional classroom space.

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