State officials could soon fund the construction of a school in Monmouth that would replace the town’s middle and elementary schools and stand next door to its high school, but there are a few steps that Regional School Unit 2 voters would need to take before the project can go ahead.

Local administrators have been planning the construction project for several years, as Monmouth Middle School ranks near the top of a list of schools the state will pay to replace, and Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School appears further down that list.

The process has gained steam in the last year, however, and administrators, who have been working closely with the state, now think construction of a consolidated school could begin as early as summer 2018.

At 6 p.m. Monday, voters from RSU 2 are invited to gather at Monmouth Middle School for a straw vote on the concept of the new building, which would serve pupils from pre-kindergarten to grade 8. According to that concept, the school would be about 70,000 square feet, as compared to the current middle school’s 82,000 square feet, said Jim Grandahl, a Monmouth resident on the RSU 2 board of education.

The current Monmouth Middle School was built over a century ago and has a number of problems. Floors are sloped, students must walk through a locker room to get to some classes and the building’s heating system is inefficient, officials have said.

The new school would be built more efficiently than the current middle and elementary schools, with just one furnace to heat it rather than the five furnaces that are now used, and it would be next to Monmouth Academy, giving flexibility to students who want to take advanced classes, Grandahl said.

“The overarching message behind this is: one, improving the learning environment for students and staff; two, having a safe, secure learning space; and three, having a much more efficient building to reduce operating costs,” Grandahl said. “It will be a 100 percent state-funded building.”

Voters must support the concept informally before the district can seek the state’s final approval, said Grandahl, who also is chairman of RSU 2’s building committee. The school district consists of Monmouth, Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell and Richmond.

At the meeting on Monday, officials also will talk about the concept and take questions from residents.

The last step before construction could go forward would be a referendum vote by each of the RSU 2 communities to borrow the construction funds, Grandahl said. Once the project is complete, the state would reimburse the district for those costs.

Until the state approves the project, Grandahl said, he is not willing to discuss the cost estimates.

“It’s a significant investment,” he said.

Grandahl thinks the districtwide referendum vote could happen this fall.

The district already has agreed to purchase 43 acres on the east side of Academy Road, just north of Monmouth Academy, where the school would stand; but that purchase will occur only if voters approve the project. The state would pay $95,000 for the land acquisition, while district taxpayers would have to cover the remaining $71,000 of the land’s value, officials said in October.

But if the combined school is built, officials said, the district could save well over $71,000 in the coming years on fuel, transportation and other costs.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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