St. Monica to build new addition

St. Monica School is taking steps to establish its first pre-kindergarten and after-school daycare program. The school has already applied for a conditional-use permit from the City of Mercer Island to build a 2,000-square-foot building north of the St. Monica rectory. The development site is currently a vacant grass field, seldom used by children at St. Monica, said the school’s principal, Pam Dellino.

Once the project is complete, the small “multipurpose” schoolhouse will accommodate approximately 10 pre-K children and up to 30 students in the after-school program. The building will also be used by parish members for a variety of events.

“There’s a lot going on in the church. We’re a big parish, and there’s a need for the extra space. It will be used for evening and weekend meetings, and summer activities,” Dellino said.

Members of St. Monica have discussed the idea of introducing a pre-K program for years. Parents, especially, have expressed interest.

“We’ve never had a preschool or after-school program, and there’s been a high demand. We have an increasing number of working parents at St. Monica looking for after-school care. They’re bringing their kids off the Island, and they’d much rather keep their kids here,” the principal explained.

The multipurpose building will include a general classroom, office space, a kitchenette and bathroom. There will also be a safe, fenced-off playground adjacent to the building. Dellino hopes that construction will begin this summer, allowing for the school to open next fall.

“I’ve already submitted a job listing with the Archdiocese for a preschool teacher. I hope to hire someone in the next few months,” Dellino said, adding that she is also looking for a teacher’s aide.

Despite the fact that Mercer Island has more than 20 preschools, the St. Monica program is a welcome addition, said Mercer Island Preschool Association member Kathy McDonald.

“There’s definitely room for more,” McDonald said. “There’s currently no Catholic preschool on the Island, so I think it’s great that St. Monica is doing this. It helps lift the tide of our preschool curriculum.”

The new school is just one more development in the North Mercer neighborhood, with plans for the 41,300-square-foot PEAK project underway. The recreational complex, shared by the Mercer Island School District and Boys & Girls Club, is set to break ground at the same time as St. Monica’s pre-school — summer, 2009.

Neighborhood concerns of increased traffic along 86th Avenue S.E. and S.E. 42nd Street, which run between St. Monica and the district’s North Mercer campus, may spark up again as building plans proceed. During last year’s discussion over PEAK, residents vociferously pointed to traffic congestion and noise as reasons against the development.

However, a traffic study conducted as part of city requirements showed that the proposed St. Monica building would cause “minimal impact to the area,” according to Dellino.

“A good number of the people who will take advantage of our preschool program will be people with children already in the school,” she explained. “The impact of additional cars will be absorbed by the regular coming and going of the day.”

The City Planning Commission will make a final decision on St. Monica’s conditional-use permit at a hearing on Dec. 17.

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