To the editor:

Let me begin by saying that the Flemington-Raritan School District does a very good job educating our children; but it does so under less than optimal circumstances. One glaring reason our school district is being held back from achieving truly outstanding results is because of the aged school facilities our students,  teachers and administrators are forced to work in.

Facilities have an impact on student outcomes in a myriad of ways. Poor school facilities are associated with what is called "sick building syndrome." Sick building syndrome causes things like nausea, headaches, irritated eyes irritated throats, and fatigue (EPA 2000, National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities 2002). All of these negative health issues impact student learning as well as the instructional quality our teachers are trying to impart on their students. Students and teachers will not perform at optimal levels if they are battling health-related issues due to aged and/or decaying school facilities.

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There is also an economic impact to the entire community regarding school facilities. There is clear and ample evidence that new school improvements and construction also increase property values in surrounding areas where the new school facility improvements occur. For example, when the Los Angeles Unified School District conducted school facility upgrades from 2002-2012, the average increase in home prices for homes zoned near the schools receiving facility improvements was between $21,765-$29,679; that increase was on a average home price of $494,650. (American Economic Association, 2018) In addition, every business person knows that the students of today are the labor force of tomorrow. If we want New Jersey to stay at the top of the U.S. rankings regarding its highly-educated workforce(especially in STEM), then we have to make a commitment to the school facilities where they are being trained for the economy future. For example, New Jersey currently has the highest concentration of scientists and engineers in the world! (chooseNJ.com, 2019). The only way we keep that incredible designation is if we provide the school facilities needed for the 21st century.

In addition to the positive economic impacts that new and improved school facilities have on a community, they also have a strong impact on crime. Studies worldwide have shown the direct correlation between student absenteeism and criminal activity. Studies have also confirmed the direct correlation between quality school facilities and increased student attendance.(American Journal for Public Health, 2010) We know that only 35 percent of inmates in U.S. correctional institutions have achieved a high-school diploma compared to over 80 percent of the U.S. population as whole.(EducationNext, 2012) Improving school facilities will always improve student attendance and that will reduce criminal activity.

The Flemington-Raritan Public School District is the unifying institution in our community that binds us all together. As a parent of two young daughters who will soon be entering into it, I want to see it excel at all levels and it needs the facility improvements to be able to achieve that goal. Simply put, right now our school district is doing well but it can and should be doing better and that is why I am asking for everyone to support the bond initiative. We live in a community with an exceptional quality of life and the Flemington-Raritan Public School District plays a major role in that; if we want to keep our high quality of life for future generations the facility bond initiative needs to pass.

John Giotis

Raritan Township