WESTBROOK — Residents spoke Monday night in support of a $27 million expansion at two Westbrook schools, but repeated their calls for a moratorium on housing development they said could strain the district.

The money would pay for a renovation and 12 new classrooms at Saccarappa Elementary School, as well as 12 new classrooms at Westbrook Middle School. The school committee voted unanimously in favor of the plan this month. The Westbrook City Council will need to have two public hearings before voting on the plan. About 20 residents showed up Monday night for the first; the second is scheduled for September.

If passed by the council, the bond will go to voters on the November ballot.

“Our building project is something that is absolutely necessary for the children who are in our schools right now, and the children who are coming to our community,” newly appointed Superintendent Peter Lancia said.

The city’s two other elementary schools – Congin and Canal — have been renovated in the last decade. City Administrator Jerre Bryant said Westbrook schools are at capacity, but the price tag for the construction might give pause to some in November.

“I don’t think there’s any question of the need for expansion,” he said last week. “I don’t know if they’ll be happy about the number.”

The six members of the public who spoke supported the project.

“I realize it is a big chunk of change, and we are all concerned about our taxes,” Cole Street resident Kathleen O’Neill-Lussier said. “However, education in this country and this city and this state still needs to be a priority.”

Ward 3 Councilor Anna Turcotte listed the challenges her two young children have experienced due to cramming at Saccarappa. Her son sometimes eats lunch in his classroom because the cafeteria can’t accommodate all the children, she said, and her daughter takes the bus to a different school for gym.

“They don’t know what’s not normal about that, because that’s what they’ve lived,” Turcotte said. “I think it does impede their education.”

In 2012, the school department closed Prides Corner School — and its 15 aging classrooms. In 2014, the City Council approved a sale of the building to a condominium developer. Fifth-graders moved to Westbrook Middle School, while elementary students were reshuffled throughout the district.

At the time, Prides Corner was in dire need of repair, and school officials said the district was experiencing a consistent decline in enrollment. From 2003 to 2009, the student population dropped from 2,688 to 2,390. The elementary schools alone shrank by 130 students during that period.

“Part of the rationale is, or was, how many school facilities do we want to maintain?” Bryant said.

That decline in enrollment, however, has reversed since then. For 2014, total district enrollment was back at 2,483. With 1,208 students in 2014, numbers for kindergarten through fifth grade are slightly higher than a decade ago. To accommodate those students, the district has added five portable classrooms at the elementary schools.

Bryant attributed that increase to a growing immigrant community in Westbrook, as well as new construction. Lancia has estimated 331 students could join the district by 2025, which factors in an ongoing housing boom in the city. Neighbors have pushed back on a major subdivision project, citing concern about its impact on already overcrowded schools.

On Monday night, some residents worried the planned expansion wouldn’t be enough to keep up with the city’s growth.

“It’s the dog chasing its tail,” Duck Pond Road resident Dale Perry said. “I think we need to control our growth. Don’t stop it. Just control it.”

Jessica Corriveau, who lives on Austin Street, echoed an earlier request for a 180-day moratorium on residential building permits, which residents have requested in order to revise Westbrook’s process for approving new construction. In particular, she and others advocated for a system of fees on developers to account for future impacts on public infrastructure like schools.

“It’s a Band-Aid on a wound,” she said. “I’m very upset that our city continues to give out permits to keep building when our schools are already overcrowded. … It seems like the city has the opportunity to ask (developers) to chip in.”

Rocco Risbara, president of Risbara Bros., said more than half of 146 apartments at his Blue Spruce Farm development are leased, and none have school-age children. He said charging a fee for an impact that might not exist is “unfair.”

“Our apartments simply don’t produce children,” he said.

If approved by voters, the renovation of the schools would be complete no sooner than 2018. In a report to the City Council, Lancia noted the school department would likely need to hire three new employees as a result of the expansion — an administrative assistant, a custodian and a cafeteria worker.

“Initially, the growth at Saccarappa would be addressed by reassigning teachers from other schools,” he wrote. “Any additional teaching positions would be requested through our annual budgeting process as enrollment increases.”

Documents related to the school expansion are available online as part of the City Council agenda and on the school department website. The second public hearing on the plan will take place during the council’s meeting Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at Westbrook High School.