A proposal to build a $58 million middle school in rural northwest Montgomery County is expected to garner strong turnout at a public hearing Wednesday.
The forum is a state-required step in the process of building a new school for Upper Perkiomen School District.
Since the district school board voted last year to move forward with the project, some residents have formed a group called Upper Perk Concerned Citizens. One of the members said Tuesday that they have gathered a few hundred signatures for a petition calling for renovation of the current middle school instead of new construction.
Advocates for the new school, which would be built on Montgomery Avenue in Upper Hanover, say a growing student population and an aging district infrastructure make a new school essential to the region.
The regional district serves seven municipalities: East Greenville, Green Lane, Pennsburg, Red Hill, Marlborough and Upper Hanover in Montgomery County, and Hereford in Berks County.
The number of students in these communities on the fringe of the Philadelphia region has grown each year this decade and is forecast to continue growing into the next.
Superintendent Alexis McGloin has said taxes would go up $484 over the next four years on properties assessed at $200,000. She said that represents a 8.6 percent increase.
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"We haven’t had a project like this in a long time," McGloin told NBC10.com last month. "It’s something very valuable to the school district."
Next year, the district's only middle school, at Fifth and Jefferson streets in East Greenville, will turn 70 years old. It has had five additions built onto it since its construction in 1947.
"The feasibility study shows that the building enrollment is currently exceeding the functional capacity of approximately 768 students," a report on the proposed new school said.
Originally, the building was the East Greenville High School, and became a middle school in 1966.
"The District does not believe it would be prudent to once again expand an aging building," the report said, adding that the building is "currently in fair condition."
It would be converted into a school for fourth and fifth graders under the proposal.
The current middle school is already over capacity and there is "clearly" a need to improve infrastructure, according to a recent district report.