East Greenwich Township voters set to weigh embattled school expansion referendum in January

Tuesday, November 02, 2010
By Rebecca Forand

EAST GREENWICH TWP. Voters will be asked again in January to consider a $25 million school building referendum, the township Board of Education has decided.

The Jan. 25 referendum calls for $18 million to be raised through taxation and $7 million to be supplied by a state grant. It would add a Pre-K classroom, four kindergarten classrooms and seven general classrooms to the Jeffrey Clark School and will include 14 classrooms, renovations to the gym, and expansions to the offices and the cafeteria at the Samuel Mickle School.

The referendum will impact the average homeowner in the township by $229 per year.

Voters rejected a similar proposal in September.

Faced with a growing population, the school district is expected to be above capacity in the next few years if the referendum is not passed. There is already a seven percent increase in enrollment in East Greenwich from last year, and the numbers are expected to continue to rise. A recent demographic study estimates that the combined populations of the two schools will rise by 500 by 2013.

"They need to know that we're out of space," said board President Adele Gallagher. "We need everyone to come out and vote, whether it's yes or no. Come out and have your voice heard."

The school board hopes to be successful in this, its second and last chance to utilize the grant from the state before it is no longer available. Plans are to advertise heavily and utilize new ways to get the word out to voters.

More information will be added to the district's website, newsletters will be sent to all residents of the town and additional meetings with the community will be planned, beginning this month.

"We'll have more concentration in neighborhoods, particularly those with children in the family that aren't school age yet," said Superintendent Joseph Conroy.

Families with younger children will be targeted because they do not currently receive the school's phone calls which are the most direct way information is disseminated to the school community, officials said.

"What will happen is, if there is no longer space available, the class sizes will get bigger and then we will have to rent trailers. That's not what we want," Conroy said.

East Greenwich will also work with the Kingsway Regional school district in promoting its own referendum which is scheduled for Dec. 14. The two school districts plan to use each other's phone lists to further spread the word in order to have voters come out to both elections.

Kingsway's $31.1 million dollar plan, which includes $8.6 million from the state, calls for construction projects at both the middle and high schools with more than a dozen new classrooms at each school as well as expansions and additions to the cafeterias, gyms and offices. Being one of Kingsway's regional sending districts, East Greenwich residents will also be affected by the results of that referendum.

"We knew there would be a lot on the table for those two months, and rather than get into some competition we wanted to make sure people understood the two programs," Conroy said.


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