NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Board of Education (BOE) provided glimpses of the upcoming referendum package at its Thursday, Feb. 11 working session. The package includes facilities upgrade, updated security systems and added instructional spaces in all borough schools. A special public meeting regarding the referendum will be held on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. at the High School Media Center.
Superintendent David Miceli explained that the referendum planning process began in 2015 when the district looked at its long range facilities plan. Last year the district held a total of nine open public meetings to generate ideas for its long-term plan. Some of those ideas from the community are incorporated in the planned referendum package.
The district had onsite visitors from the Department of Education as well as the Union County office to evaluate the infrastructure and the security issues at the schools. Additionally, the district consulted local law enforcement officials and had a representative from the Newtown, CT school district to give a presentation that helped the administration with its plan to enhance the security features at all schools by adding cameras and vestibule enclosures.
The increased demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes influenced the district’s plan to add instructional classroom space in all schools. The district is also preparing for the current elementary school “bubble” to move through the middle and high schools in the next couple of years.
At the Roberts School the anticipated referendum would finance a new stage curtain in the gym. In addition to the security enhancements, two sixth grade locker rooms would be converted into instructional space, thus adding one classroom for STEM and one small group classroom.
The Salt Brook School would undergo a roof replacement project. All door hardware and locks would also be replaced. The existing elevator would be upgraded and the front steps brought up to code. Moreover, the school’s boiler is due for a replacement. Extra instructional space will be gained through the conversion of a locker room. The gifted and talented program classroom will be converted into a STEM classroom.
A partial roof replacement project is planned for the middle/high school building. Under the proposed referendum the track would be restriped and the gym upgraded with athletic wood flooring as well as acoustical enhancements. The building would also undergo existing floorplan renovations. Moreover, the plan includes two added STEM classrooms and one science lab.
The Finance Committee Chairman Adam Smith explained that the state provides approximately 40 percent of the facilities upgrade costs. However, the state will not provide the funds up front, instead the payments will be done on an annual basis. The anticipated preliminary costs for the planned projects total $15,800,000. After the expected state contribution, the price tag for the district would be $10,399,000. This translates into a $60 annual tax increase for the average New Providence home.
Kevin Settembrino of Settembrino Architects brought drawings of the proposed changes and upgrades in the schools to the meeting. If the voters approve the referendum, the bulk of the project will begin in the summer of 2017. Settembrino explained that some of the work could start as early as the spring of 2017.