Edison, NJ - On Thursday, the Edison Board of Education moved one step closer to addressing the District’s overcrowding crisis. At a special meeting, held at the District’s Education Center, the Board unanimously voted to appoint the architectural firm of SSP Architects for the preparation of plans for the expansion of six schools.
SSP Architects will submit plans for Edison High School, John P. Stevens High School, John Adams Middle School, James Madison Intermediate School, Lincoln Elementary School, and John Marshall Elementary School according to the resolution approved by the Board.
The resolution authorizes SSP Architects to create plans for each of the six schools that will then be submitted to the State as part of a future referendum process. A date for a proposed referendum has not yet been set.
“That’s just furthering us along for our final plan for our overcrowding. The board right now gave them direction for them to complete their plans so that we can get ready to start to present it to the public. So, I would say in the next 30 days, maybe even at our next meeting, we’ll probably have another meeting and then we’ll be ready to present our overcrowding solutions to the public and have discussions with the public about that,” said Board of Education Member Richard Brescher, who serves as the chair of the Finance and Facility committee.
According to Interim Superintendent Paul J. Saxton, the selection of the schools was based on a recent demographic study conducted by the District.
“Through a comprehensive master plan study, SSP has identified building infrastructure and capacity needs on a district-wide basis,” said Mr. Saxton.
“It turns out that district schools are significantly over capacity right now due to absorbing an enrollment increase of over 1,900 students over the past five years. Added to this is the forecasted increase of another 500 students over the next five years. Currently there is a critical shortage of classrooms and lab spaces and an over-dependence on the use of stand-alone, temporary trailers that need to be addressed,” he said.
In late November, Jeanne Perantoni, from SSP Architects, provided the Overcrowding Taskforce with an overview of the professional analysis that would be conducted based on the feedback provided by the Taskforce.
The Overcrowding Taskforce, comprised of educators, parents, community organizations, and policymakers, was convened in 2018 by Edison Board of Education President Jerry Shi to seek solutions to what he termed “the District’s overcrowding crisis” and to find a pathway to implement a full day kindergarten program. The Taskforce is chaired by Board of Education Vice President Ralph Errico.
According to Mr. Saxton, school overcrowding will have the greatest impact on Edison’s high schools and middle schools.
“Edison Township schools are experiencing severe overcrowding, and with enrollment projections continuing to rise, especially at the High School and Middle School levels, the situation is getting worse. The Principals have done an excellent job of utilizing their buildings to their highest capacities possible, however, the long-term solution is to add more space and capacity seats through additions and alterations,” he said.
Although a significant move, Mr. Saxton cautioned that the resolution approved by the Board on Thursday was still a preliminary procedural step.
“The starting point is to target those schools with the most severe overcrowding and address ways to expand them. This list includes JP Stevens and Edison High Schools plus a mix of four other schools at the middle and elementary school levels. Expansion is needed to increase seat capacity, and a final action plan is in development. The plan is expected to be submitted to the Board of Education and then upon approval to the New Jersey Department of Education for review in the coming months,” said Mr. Saxton.