Expansion Needed for Berlin School
By JIM WALSH Courier-Post Staff
Some students attend class on an auditorium stage. Others are headed for two trailers due to open this semester outside the Franklin Avenue building. And youngsters needing special attention gather in makeshift classrooms behind dividers in the media center.
"It's kind of cramped," said language arts teacher Arlene Chiumento, noting her students in the media center can be distracted by nearby activities - such as sex- education lessons for older grades.
District officials say the remedy is a $7.6 million expansion project, which would add 16 classrooms, including two each for kindergarten and special-education students.
Residents will vote Sept. 24 on a $4.9 million bond to finance the project, which would receive $2.9 million in state funds.
The project would create space for art, music and small- group instruction in a 42,000-square-foot addition. It would expand the cafeteria, provide a larger gym with bleachers, and increase parking and storage space.
And it would boost property taxes - by $100.27 per year for a typical home assessed at $123,800. The average home now is billed $1,489.31 annually by the district."There are no frills in this plan," said Superintendent Leonard Binowski, whose office is also in a trailer.
Binowski said the district's sole school, designed for 589 youngsters, now has 770 pupils in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Enrollment is expected to reach 950 students by 2007.
"It's just growth in the community," said Binowski. " Younger people are moving in. And where there's available land, developers are building homes."
The borough added almost 500 residents in the last decade, bringing its population to 6,149 in 2000.
If voters approve the bond, construction could begin in March 2003 for completion by September 2004, said Robert N. Garrison Jr., architect for the district.
Binowski said the project's timing is right, with interest rates at historic lows. Also, he said, the state aid represents about 35 percent of total spending, well above the average level of 27 percent.
Jeff Grau, a 46-year-old contractor, said the project would benefit Berlin's youngsters and property values."If they have to do it, they have to do it," said Grau.
The Berlin Borough school board will hold three public meetings on a $7.6 million proposal to expand the Berlin Community School. The meetings - on Tuesday, Sept. 18 and Sept. 24 - each begin at 7 p.m. at the school on Franklin Avenue.
Residents will vote on a bond referendum Sept. 24 from 2 to 9 p.m. at the school.
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