Survey: Support in Monticello for new high school

Survey: Support in Monticello for new high school

MONTICELLO — A recent survey revealed that city residents believe the best solution for upgrading school facilities is to build a new Monticello High School, not renovate the current one.

That was the thrust of a presentation given to the school board Wednesday night by Sage Voices, a community group charged with gauging residents' facility preferences through four public meetings and last month's survey.

"We still basically have the same high school that not only I attended, but the same one my father attended. That's not acceptable," said Dyke Piatt, one of the members of Sage Voices.

The group also determined that the current Monticello High should be converted into a district-wide pre-k through fifth grade center — and provided data on how it arrived at that recommendation. It cited original build dates between 1894 and 1923 for four of the district's five buildings; architectural studies claiming better educational performance in new structures; and residents' slight preference for a new high school over remodeling the current one.

The project has an estimated price tag of $40 million, which audience member Jim Molloy said he would not vote to fund until more details are known.

"I think if you really want to get community support, you need to give us a specific site plan, and some building plans," Molloy said. "They need to know: What are we getting for our money? It's not that we don't want to spend it; it's that we want to know what we're getting — and where."

Schools Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said more details would be provided if the issue goes on the ballot in November. No decision on that was made Wednesday, but a special school board meeting was tentatively scheduled for Aug. 13 to consider a resolution to put the issue on the ballot.

A countywide facility sales tax may also be put to voters on Nov. 4.

Of the 1,000 people who returned surveys, 38.3 percent said they favored construction of a new high school while 23.4 percent favored renovating the existing school instead.

Tom Rudolph, who helped draft the survey, called it "a snapshot of where the community is right now," adding that he expects support for a new school to increase as voters learn more.

Zimmerman pointed out it had been 945 days since the district began its facilities study, and that it may be time to move forward with a project.

"I'm not sure what we could do in the next 945 days to try to develop more information, additional information and a better plan to be in a different place 945 days from now if we put off this decision," he said.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.

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