Third time's a charm for Monticello's $29.8 million school proposal

Third time's a charm for Monticello's $29.8 million school proposal

MONTICELLO — After twice previously defeating calls to construct a new high school, Monticello school district voters on Tuesday approved a $29.8 million referendum proposal that will fund renovations at the high school's Washington Elementary campus.

The vote in Piatt County was 2,271 in favor and 1,437 against the ballot issue, while 35 of 56 Champaign County voters who reside in the Monticello district voted "no." A handful of voters also live in DeWitt County, but those results were not yet available.

More than five years after the school board began discussing facility upgrades, Superintendent Vic Zimmerman is glad to be moving forward with a project.

"We looked at probably 15 to 20 different combinations of plans since the second new high school plan didn't pass. Different factions of the community have different beliefs on what is best for the school district," Zimmerman said. "This is a good plan; it's a compromise plan that addresses our needs at the high school along with some needs at the elementary school. When it's all said and done, we'll end up with one less elementary, which makes us a little more efficient as a district."

Construction will take place in phases, with an estimated completion for the start of the 2020-21 school year. At that point, the district will have a renovated high school — originally built in 1924 — along with new construction that will include a competition-sized gymnasium and the addition of 12 classrooms at Washington Elementary, along with a science/STEM lab wing to be added to the east side of the high school.

A revamped entryway and offices for the high school will also be part of the project.

The plan calls for the oldest school in the district, the 1894 portion of Washington Elementary, to be demolished to pave way for the new gym, to be used by elementary students during the school day and high school athletes for after-school practices and evening competitions.

Monticello's second-oldest building, Lincoln Elementary, would also be closed, as the Washington facility would shift from a fourth- through fifth-grade facility to one housing preschool through third-graders.

"This plan is going to have to be in phases, where we build the new high school addition, we move the high school kids out of Washington into that addition and move the old Washington (building) kids into where the high school kids were, then tear down old Washington and build on, so it's going to take a little longer than a new school would be," Zimmerman said.

The committee that pushed for passage of past ballot questions took a softer, less partisan approach this time around, distributing information and encouraging people to get to the polls.

As a result of the approved referendum, the owner of a $100,000 home will pay an estimated $71 more per year in property taxes. Farmers will pay approximately $1.32 per acre in additional taxes.

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