Monroe superintendent Buskirk grateful for help during first year, pandemic

Monroe's first-year Superintendent Robert Buskirk credits teachers, staffers and the community with helping him through his first go as a full-time district leader during the third school year impacted by COVID-19. Buskirk is putting the finishing touches on the school year in the fast-growing Monroe Schools and said he is grateful for all the support. Buskirk is pictured speaking at last month's Monroe High School graduation. CONTRIBUTED

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Monroe's first-year Superintendent Robert Buskirk credits teachers, staffers and the community with helping him through his first go as a full-time district leader during the third school year impacted by COVID-19. Buskirk is putting the finishing touches on the school year in the fast-growing Monroe Schools and said he is grateful for all the support. Buskirk is pictured speaking at last month's Monroe High School graduation. CONTRIBUTED

If he had a choice, the leader of Monroe Schools wouldn’t have picked being a first-year superintendent during the third year of a global pandemic, but looking back, Robert Buskirk credits teachers, staffers and the community with helping him through.

Buskirk is putting the finishing touches on his first school year as a leader of the fast-growing Monroe Schools and said he is grateful for all the support.

He saw the community’s close connection to its schools in his first exposure to Monroe.

When interviewing for the job in 2021 while interim superintendent for Lebanon Schools, Buskirk recalls how he was struck by the “pride and close-knit community that Monroe is.”

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Now finishing his first year, he said, “it is such a great place to be (because of) the staff, the community and the school board has this tremendous pride in their schools.”

“The staff is so close and they really are a family and they just do whatever it takes to help our kids find success. I am really in a great spot and excited to be here.”

That togetherness was all the more important, he said, as Monroe joined other Ohio schools during the 2021-2022 school year again forced to make major classroom schedule changes and other adjustments as the COVID-19 pandemic severity fluctuated, especially in the fall.

“The first semester was the worst,’ he said.

There are, however, other concerns on the horizon, he recently told the Journal-News, primarily on the continued over-crowding issues for the 3,000-student school system that straddles the Butler and Warren County border.

An aging primary school, which opened in the 1950s, and a growing enrollment mirroring an expanding city’s population, has in recent years seen Monroe apply for state school construction funding that has been delayed since 2018 by Ohio officials and is still pending.

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The district’s 2-12 building was opened in 2004 and was designed for 1,883 students. There are now more than 2,400 students attending the school.

“We are really bursting,” he said of the overcrowding.

The summer break, said Buskirk, will see classroom expansion work and renovations on the 2-12 school building, which shares wings for elementary, middle school and high school classrooms.

“Our long-term goal is a new school building and we’ve been working with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) and hopefully our number (for funding eligibility) is coming up in the next two years.”

What that building will be is still to be decided, he said, in large part by future community input to determine if the district’s expansion goals have changed from 2018′s plan for a new primary school to instead building a new high school or some other option.

“Starting in the fall we are going to be reaching out to the community to really get some idea what they think our next building should be,” he said.

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