SEEKONK -- School space needs are expected to be addressed for years to come now that voters have supported an expansion of one of the town's two elementary schools.
Residents at a special town election Monday, by a vote of 633 to 363, approved a $10.5 million, 10-classroom expansion of Mildred H. Aitken Elementary School. The question won by or near 2-1 margins in Precincts 1 and 2, with closer tallies in the other two precincts.
In a second ballot question, voters by a vote of 565 to 431 supported the installation of air conditioning in the entire school, at a cost of $1.75 million. That question lost in two of the town's four precincts, Precincts 3 and 4.
The projects will be funded through a debt exclusion from state tax-levy limiting law Proposition 2 1/2.
For a home assessed at about $300,000, the cost would be approximately $129 more in taxes.
"It's very exciting," building committee Chairwoman Jackie Proulx said. "This is long overdue. The schools have been crowded."
Proulx pointed out the addition project will include other improvements needed for Aitken School, such as new boilers and ventilation systems.
"Two thousand kids depend on us to make good decisions," school committee Chairwoman Kim Sluter said, mentioning the planning has been going on for about six years. "Looking at how many contributed, it's really impressive. It's a thoughtful, forward thinking plan to alleviate space needs at the elementary level for years to come."
Just under 10 percent or 997 of the town's 10,480 registered voters turned out to the high school poll.
"Things went smooth. It was steady all day long," Town Clerk Florice Craig said, adding of the turnout, "it was more than I expected."
Voters at the May 13 annual town meeting supported the two building projects.
Residents at a November town meeting had approved the borrowing of $1 million to pay for the design of the addition.
Superintendent Rich Drolet and school board members say the addition is urgently needed to relieve overcrowding in the elementary schools and address the projected increase in enrollment at all schools over the next decade.
Selectmen and the finance committee have backed the school project.
In the meantime, modular classrooms at Aitken and Martin schools are expected to be used for at least three years.