I have no doubt there is a space shortage, no doubt something needs to be done and no doubt the Board has done their due diligence. However I respectfully believe that we can do better than this plan. The cost here far outweighs the benefits. We are facing difficult times ahead as a community so taking time to get this right is critical.
My concerns with the current plan are:
- It does not adequately address the problem of aging buildings. We are being asked to fund additions to 100+ year old buildings, again. Continuing to renovate or add on to 19th and 20th century buildings does not make good sense. How long before we begin to build modern schools? 150 years? More? How much more recreational space will we take away from our children, which is just as important to their well-being as academics?
- The community was not engaged in the process before a plan was presented for comment at Town Halls. If the Board of Education needs the people to fund a plan, then getting buy-in up front is a good idea. My idea is to convene citizen committees (which are policy mandated) to provide guidance to the Board in the process.
- Logistics is an issue: The proposed Middle School plan is great in theory but relocating more than 300 additional students/parents and cars to Franklin Ave will cause a logistical nightmare for anyone trying to get through town every morning and afternoon. Congestion, parking and student safety is a real concern there for both students and the community.
An alternative plan is to build one new school (an annex) anywhere not on Franklin Avenue. Developers have been able to locate land to build large apartment buildings in town, why not the district? We can build an annex for 6th graders or build a state-of-the-art Primary School for Pre-K and K or any other variation on this idea. This will be the most economical and best long term solution in my opinion. A new building for one or two grades does not have to be huge and will free up space in all the elementary schools eliminating the need for expansion of 100 year old buildings.
And then this will pave the way for building another new school in 2034 when the current bonds are paid off. When the annex is paid off in 25 years, we can build another new school. I am for responsible investment in the district. I have just outlined one idea for having three new, modern buildings within the next generation in Nutley.
We have an opportunity to do something great. Let’s take the time to get this right. The best results will come from listening to one another. That is what I offer, creative options and a willingness to engage and listen to other points of view. A vote for me is a vote for someone who will work for all stakeholders including children, parents, teachers and the community that supports them all.
That is my last word on the referendum. My next statement will turn towards the new programming I will work hard to bring to our high school students and the main reason I decided to run for Board of Education. As a preview: I believe that many students will go on to college and be very successful, but not every student needs, wants or is able to go to college. Whether it is the Trades, the Arts or something else, we need to provide alternative options for all our students to achieve success.