MONROE – The new Monroe High School will be on a 77-acre site off of 31st Avenue near Northside Elementary School, officials have announced. That is, if voters approve an $88 million referendum.
The public vote on the referendum will take place on Nov. 8. The district is seeking funds to both build the new high school and for major renovations to Abraham Lincoln Elementary. The announcement was made on Tuesday, Sept. 20, following months of speculation about a potential site and whether students would have to cross any major highways to get there.
“The kids won’t have to go across highways to get there, it’s an ideal location,” said Monroe Superintendent Rodney Figueroa, in his first year at the helm of the district. “There’s room for everything there, including for future needs and it has good road access” from all directions.
The site also is fairly level, so crews won’t have to do a large amount of grading to prepare the ground for construction. The site includes the school footprint, a football stadium, baseball and practice fields. The new site will be more than double the current high school’s size – from the existing 26 acres to the proposed 77 acres.
“We currently have fields and facilities all over the city and now we can have everything right here on our own campus,” he said. “We thought it was important to put the school site in front of the voters before they decide on the referendum.”
Learn more about the MHS Referendum here.
The referendum question is for a total of $88 million, which officials said would generate a projected tax rate of $1.99 per $1,000 of valuation. That means for a home or property valued at $100,000, the additional cost would be $199/year. For a home or property valued at $200,000, the additional cost from the referendum would be $398.
The cost to fully renovate the existing high school – and the needed improvements to Lincoln – was projected at about $86 million, so officials said a new high school geared toward modern education would be preferred. Once the new school is completed the old one will be demolished.
The district has scheduled a number of question-and-answer sessions for the public, including one tonight, and the next one set for 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 11 in the high school library.
Figueroa said he is optimistic the public will approve the referendum. A recent survey, he said, showed that 63% of voters would approve the measure if it the question was very specific to funding the high school and Lincoln projects.
The district last went to a referendum in 2021 when voters approved a measure to spend $5.6 million to address compliance issues at Northside Elementary School including maintenance, HVAC code and safety updates.
The district also went to a referendum in 2019 and was successful with both questions on that ballot. The first was a request to exceed the revenue cap by $1.5 million annually for five years beginning in the next school year and continuing through 2023-24. The funding was targeted used for operational expenses, from technology to curriculum to programming. The second question that time around asked that the district be allowed to borrow $3.36 million over two years in general obligation bonds. Funds were targeted largely to Parkside Elementary School. Projects include badly needed maintenance, HVAC improvements, electrical infrastructure upgrades, bathroom updates to be compliant with accessibility laws and a new fire sprinkler system.
Join the Referendum Information Meetings to learn more and tour the facilities.
Wed., Sept. 21st, 6-7:30 p.m. at the Monroe High School Library
Tues., Oct. 11th, 6-7:30pm at the Monroe High School Library
In the late 1990s, a district referendum was passed that doubled the size of the middle school, with a Northside renovation that expanded the north wing and creating a gym large enough to hold a full-size basketball court with bleachers. The high school added a performing arts center, auxiliary gyms and expanding multipurpose room entrance, as well as new science and art wings on the south and west ends.
Of the current issues at the high school, most have to deal with areas in the “new” expansions, which were completed in 2000. There is water infiltration and drainage issues, which has led to molding and signs of structural degradation. The building’s mechanicals are inefficient and beyond life expectancy, locker rooms and bathrooms are not ADA compliant or accessible, and an entire all in the science wing is cracking and separating from the foundation and the rest of the building.
Former Superintendent Rick Waski said he was pleased with the new site selection and plans for a new facility. He is grateful that the voters in the past approved the money for Parkside and Northside approvements and feels the new high school will have a major impact.
“It’s been nearly forty years since we replaced a facility,” said Waski, who retired in Spring 2022.
He encouraged the public to support the referendum and to get involved in providing input for the final design.
Both superintendents said the site will be supported by some and other sites preferred by others. But they feel the community can rally around the idea of a major benefit that will endure for many decades in Monroe.
“If the voters don’t approve it’s back to the drawing board for the district, but I feel like, based on our surveys and input, that it will have substantial support,” said Waski.
Figueroa said the district will be working hard to spread the word about the need and the benefits of the new high school in the weeks and months before the Nov. 8 vote decides its fate. They are emphasizing the value of the facility not just to the students and staff, but to the community as a whole.
“It will serve this community in a positive way for generations,” he said.