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Public debates the last piece of Middletown schools’ huge $96M building project

ajc.com

The final chapter of the largest construction project in Middletown schools history is still being publicly debated.

The $96 million building project, which has already seen a new middle school, a renovated high school and a new track and field stadium all on the Middletown High School campus, is now focusing on a $10 million plan to relieve elementary school overcrowding.

hat last part of the city schools changing face has proved the most controversial with both district officials and the public participating in recent weeks in sometimes-contentious discussions.

The final decision on the school expansion project may come in late April, the superintendent told parents Thursday evening.

Marlon Styles Jr., superintendent of Middletown Schools, announced the tentative schedule for the district’s school expansion project, which was voted down in January by the school board with some members wanting more details and public input.

Explore VIDEO & STORY: Middletown school board rejects superintendent’s $10 million plan to expand Central Academy

Styles met with a half dozen school parents at Mayfield Elementary as part of his district leadership team’s listening tour to gather community and school staffers’ input on how best the district should go about reducing overcrowding in elementary schools.

Explore MORE: Middletown School leader announces listening tour for help with $10 million plan to relieve overcrowding

His first proposal, which included expanding Central Academy School and moving that school’s 6th grade to Highview Elementary, was unanimously rejected by the school board.

In response the superintendent later announced a series of public meetings on the coming $10 million project, which at this point may take a number of different options impacting several of the district’s seven elementary schools.

Explore VIDEO & STORY: Middletown school leader tells board he ‘failed’ on proposed $10 million expansion plan

“Our desire here is to capture your ideas and insights and take those back to the board of education,” Styles told parents. “Our job here is to listen.”

Styles told them he expects to report back on the community’s input at the board’s March 18 meeting and present members with a first-reading resolution at the April 8 meeting. A final board vote on how to proceed with the project could come on April 29.

School parents, school staffers and all district residents are invited to the meetings, and parents do not have to have children in the specific school hosting a public meeting to attend and participate.

Middletown school parent Danielle Hattley said after the Mayfield school meeting she appreciated district officials’ latest approach in reaching out to the community.

“It’s a great idea and I like how they are actually involving all the parents,” Hattley said.

She was sympathetic about the overcrowding described by Styles, which has seen some classrooms in the elementary school with up to 28 students.

“But I want to make sure that whatever school they decide to build on to that it makes the school safer,” said Hattley.

School parent Bryan Moren said dividing the school expansion project to a number of schools may be the best approach rather than concentrating on expanding only one school, such as Central Academy, which Styles previously proposed.

“It’s a very big picture to look at,” said Moren, referring to the potential domino impact any expansion of classrooms may have all the elementaries.

“I think spreading out the construction to the most needed (schools) might be a potential solution,” he said.

The remaining meetings, which all begin at 6 p.m., are: March 7 at Wildwood Elementary; March 12 at Central Academy; March 13 at Miller Ridge Elementary and March 14 at Creekview Elementary.

Middletown schools projects

$96 million: The total cost of a new middle school, renovated and expanded high school, new track and field stadium

$10 million: Amount left over from that project to be used expanding the existing elementary schools to relieve overcrowding.

7: Middletown elementary schools