MILLBURN, NJ – The $23.7 million Referendum proposed by the Millburn Township Board of Education will represent one of the most significant improvements to the district’s buildings and grounds in decades.
Though the “bones” in the Township’s schools are solid, much of the equipage is aging, in some cases, beyond their expected service life. For example, many bathroom and plumbing fixtures are so old it’s impossible to find replacement parts simply because they are no longer manufactured.
The allocation for health and safety projects, which is the largest element of the Referendum at a cost of approximately $10.3 million, is much more than a facelift. These renovations are deemed as necessary improvements for the health and welfare of our students. Based on the recently published Referendum project list by the BOE, there are no line items for beautification or aesthetic enhancements.
Looking beyond infrastructure improvements, there are two other major components of the Referendum, one of which includes the creation of Makerspaces. These “STEAM labs” or “fab labs” have been popping up in schools across the country. Gone are the days of auto shop and home economics. The spaces of today are intended for robotics, art, engineering, fabrication and design.
These project based learning environments may have been inspired by the need to explore unique ways to apply pedagogy, realizing that students are not just visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor of Education at Harvard University, theorized that in addition to linguistic and mathematical intelligence, human potential can be tied to other intelligences (skills) such as musical, spatial, interpersonal and other modalities. Gardner defines intelligence as the “biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture.”
The third major element of the Referendum, which actually inspired its initiation, is the opportunity to re-purchase the Millburn Regional Day School. The intent of the purchase is to relocate the Township’s fifth graders into a single school of their own, aptly called The Fifth Grade Academy. Given a foreseeable rise in the Township’s student population, the BOE believes this is a better alternative to redistricting or busing.
The purchase, associated renovations and start up costs are approximately $6.5 million. Many would agree that at the current asking price ($3.5 million) for four acres of prime downtown Millburn property with a 37,000 s.f. building adjacent to the high school is a “no brainer”.
In anticipation of the Academy, Assistant Superintendents Kyle Arlington and Michael Ryan have asked Millburn Township residents to fill out a survey to assist with the vision of the school. We encourage all residents to visit Millburn Survey.