Kingsway to hold vote on schools

By LUCAS K. MURRAY Courier-Post Staff
ecember 1, 2010

A countdown timer is posted on the Kingsway Regional School District's bond referendum website showing, to the second, just how much time remains before a special vote to expand the district's two schools.

It marks the time district officials have left to persuade voters in four Gloucester County municipalities to shoulder the financial burden of the $22.6 million in bonds needed to fund the project.

Its overall cost is $31.1 million. The state has offered an $8.46 million grant to help offset some costs.

The vote will be Dec. 14.

The local financing, if approved, would boost property taxes an average of $150 for typical homes in the district's four municipalities -- East Greenwich, South Harrison, Swedesboro and Woolwich.

School Board President Mark Kehoe said he's hopeful residents will recognize the district needs to expand the schools to accommodate projected population growth.

Students make their way along the hall of Kingsway Regional High School in Woolwich. The district is holding a Dec. 14 referendum to expand and renovate its two schools.
(AL SCHELL/Courier-Post)

"We need more space and the program we are presenting is a fiscally responsible one," Kehoe said.

Superintendent James Lavender noted the community as a whole has had to deal with growth in the last several years.

Woolwich, where Lavender served as deputy mayor until last summer, has been deemed the fastest-growing community in the state, bringing with it unique challenges,most noticeable to taxpayers in the form of school construction.

"We've built in the past and we'll be forced again to build in the future," he said.

Between the middle and high schools, 2,253 students are being taught at Kingsway. By 2014, that number could reach 3,000 students.

"The need is there," Lavender said.

When Kingsway built a middle school in 2004, it projected growth based on the number of students in elementary schools in the district's four communities, as well as Logan, which sends its older students there. At the time, planners estimated 787 students would be attending classes at the middle school. This year, in spite of a housing construction slowdown, the middle school is at 747.

The expansion plan calls for the middle school to add 16 classrooms, an art room and an occupational therapy/physical therapy room for special-education students. A 10,935-square-foot auxiliary gymnasium/community space also is planned.

Main office and guidance facilities, as well as some classrooms and other areas, would receive renovations. In total, new construction would equal 41,368 square feet.

The high school would receive 36,424 square feet of new space. Fifteen general classrooms, new large group instruction rooms, two science labs, three music rooms and a small group instruction room would be added. An existing gymnasium would be expanded and a new lobby tacked on to the auditorium. Upgrades in a computer lab and renovations of other spaces are planned.

The fact that voters in September rejected an $18.4 million referendum to expand two East Greenwich elementary schools raises concern for Kingsway officials.

"The board is aware of these difficult economic times, but we hope the voters recognize that we need additional facilities to house and educate our students," Kehoe said.

More than a dozen meetings with community groups have been or will be held leading up to the referendum.

If the bond is approved, work could begin next spring and be completed for the start of the 2012-13 school year.


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