GLEN ROCK – New air conditioning units for the borough’s elementary schools may be put to a referendum question as soon as next September, according to Interim Superintendent Bruce Watson.

On Nov. 14, trustees of the Glen Rock Board of Education said solutions to the unsatisfactorily hot and humid temperatures in several classrooms in the district’s four elementary schools – due in part, to malfunctioning thermostats – includes funding new air conditioning units for the schools.

The project may be put to a referendum vote.

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Trustees agreed that the proposal, the cost of which was not divulged at the meeting, would be too large of an expense to include in the board’s capital budget. The board plans next year to hire an architect who will determine the amount the project will cost. 

During Tuesday night’s meeting, Trustee Elizabeth Carr dispelled hearsay about classroom temperatures rising above 100 degrees during October.

Per a “detailed report” she received from the district, she said “at no time” did the temperatures go above 85 degrees in Coleman School, 83 degrees in Hamilton School or above 91 degrees at Richard E. Byrd School. Carr added that thermostats in some schools, namely Central School, are nonworking and present with inaccurate readings.  

“When you have classrooms that go up to 81 to 85 degrees, learning and teaching doesn’t take place at 85 degrees,” said Superintendent Watson. “Kids are putting their heads on their desks, teachers are sweating through their clothes. It’s not a healthy thing.” 

Business Administrator Michael Rinderknecht confirmed the district could get up to 40 cents on the dollar back from the New Jersey Department of Education for the air conditioning project if funded via a referendum, though not guaranteed.

Most other board members agreed with Trustee Rona McNabola’s idea of adding other projects to the referendum, one of which is sustainable solar panels to cut energy costs. 

While Board Member Eileen Hillock said she feared new air conditioning may be “lost in the shuffle” if other items are added to the referendum, Board Vice President Sharon Scarpelli disagreed, stating she didn’t think the idea of having the air conditioning stand alone on the referendum was “realistic.”

“I think if we’re going to do a referendum, we have to look at everything,” she said, proposing for one referendum, adding field improvements at Hamilton School.

When the meeting was open to public comment, Board Member-elect Megan Findley, who will replace Hillock in January, said she’s excited to work on the referendum.

“I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a really good communication campaign,” Findley said.

The idea for the referendum will be part of the “board goals,” which trustees will discuss at their retreat following the January reorganization meeting. Other goals will include field renovation, the borough’s traffic study involving the district’s six schools (the board recently denied the borough council a $10,000 contribution to fund the middle and high school portion of the study), and establishing an ad hoc committee to discuss class offerings.

These goals are aimed at making the transition smoother for a permanent superintendent who will take the helm next year, Board President Bryon Torsiello said.