SPOTSWOOD, NJ - There is an important referendum on the ballot on Election Day this November and it’s one that will directly impact the Spotswood Public School District. Voters will be deciding on a referendum that will allow all four schools to address major security, safety and facility issues that were identified in a survey the district conducted throughout the community during the 2014-15 school year.
The district stands to receive more than $3,000,000 in state funding that was procured through ROD grants and debt service aid in preparation for the referendum. This funding will pay for one third of the proposed project, which will cost $9,343,707 in total. The local share will be the remaining two thirds, which comes to $6,186,250.
Spotswood residents would see an estimated $9.80 increase per month while Helmetta residents can expect a rise of about $8.29. Milltown pays a set tuition rate per child that attends the high school. They will pay a percentage of the interest on the projects that directly affect the Spotswood High School.
However, if the referendum does not pass, the district will lose access to the $3,157,457 in state funding.
As the school that handles the highest number of students in the district, Spotswood High School stands to receive the most from the proposed referendum. Spotswood High School currently houses more than 700 students from Spotswood, Milltown and Helmetta.
While Spotswood High School Principal, Thomas Calder understands the woes of the tax payer, he sees the importance of passing the referendum every day through the course of his job. “I’m still a blue collar guy. What we’re asking for here is all needs,” Calder said during a recent interview. “There is no fluff. They’re all necessary.”
Calder has been the principal at Spotswood High School since September of 2001. He began his career as a teacher in 1980 and has worked in all facets of education including a stint as the athletic director in New Providence.
“You can really only put a band aid on it for so long,” Calder continued. “The school is nice, clean and presentable, but all these issues must be addressed. We can’t simply patchwork anymore.”
With the high school’s portion of the project, Calder wants to tackle the major issues that include fixing the roof, a HVAC upgrade, window replacements, improvements to the security cameras and communications systems, renovations to the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms as well as replacing the bleachers and the track.
On the floor in the corner of Calder’s office sits a box of debris that has been collected from the aging track. The principal also noted that the locker room facilities date back to the 1970s when the school was originally constructed as does the bleachers, which are frequently filled to capacity when the Chargers play their home football games.
Calder admitted that he worries when he sees students and residents packed into the bleachers on a Saturday afternoon and has received complaints from visiting parents as to the deplorable condition of the away stands.
The bleachers, which show visible signs of rust and even sag in some places, are inspected every year. Calder feels strongly that they “are in danger of being condemned.” If that were to occur, the Chargers would only be able to play away football games. “I’ve seen it happen in other districts,” Calder explained.
The bleachers are also used on Sundays by the Golden Bear Chargers, which is a member of the Central Jersey Pop Warner Conference and provides a football and cheerleading program for kids ages five through 15.
The Spotswood High School track is also utilized by the community. Many people use it for jogging and walking throughout the year. More than 100 students participate in the track program at the high school, two of whom are being considered for scholarships from major universities for their abilities. Holes mar the long jump and shot put area of the track while the edges of the track itself are beginning to lift up. The running track no longer has the “bounce” it’s supposed to as the asphalt underneath is beginning to come through.
When visiting teams come to play football, Calder explained that they use the girls' locker room because “it is more presentable than the boys.”
Both locker rooms have outdated facilities and show major signs of wear. The girls’ locker room has holes in the ceiling tiles while the boys’ ceiling is void of any tiles at all. Students can look up and see all the pipe work.
“We’re not asking for a turf field. It’s strictly needs. No fluff,” Calder repeated.
Residents that would like more information regarding the upcoming referendum can visit the Spotswood Board of Education website.