I was relieved to see that the $70 million referendum was defeated yesterday, because it was a big win for common sense
I am a Yantacaw parent and obviously want my children to have the best education possible, but when I first heard about this issue a year ago I began researching it and found some information about the school overcrowding issue that made me feel like the referendum was overkill to say the least.
In a now-deleted article that referenced a study by Ross Haber and Associates from 2014, it was stated that the school overcrowding issue disproportionately affects Yantacaw and Washington Schools. In fact, according to the study, enrollment is projected to DECREASE at Lincoln and Spring Garden schools and remain relatively stable at Radcliffe:
"For 2018-19, Yantacaw could see an increase of 98 students, Washington 72, and Radcliffe 10, according to projections. On the other hand, Lincoln could experience a decrease of 18 students, along with Spring Garden, which could decrease by 11 students. Figures include special needs students."
When I found this information, I actually wrote to superintendent Julie Glazer and the school board to point it out, which is why I have the quote saved. When I tried to find the article subsequently, I found that it no longer exists.
Regardless, the fact that school overcrowding affects the schools disproportionately (which should also be obvious due to the numerous apartments and condos closer to the schools near route 3) means that redistricting should have been the number one solution, not a backup plan. It's very simple, tighten the borders around Yantacaw and Washington in order to send some additional children to the other schools.
The fact that this very simple and inexpensive solution was ignored or skipped over is very troubling to me because even if there was a need for some construction to make the schools larger, redistricting should have still been used to even out the strain on the staff and facilities at these schools. Instead, whenever redistricting was brought up in the Q&A sessions with the school board the answer was that it was "not a long term solution". In other words, we really want the BMW even though the Honda will get us there for awhile longer if we take better care of it. At the very least that's disingenuous and shortsighted and at it's worst plainly dishonest depending on how generous you feel about it.
The sad thing is, if the board had redistricted and proposed a more modest construction project - possibly building one new elementary if there is room (~$30 million) or building onto the middle school only (Westwood approved their middle school project at $23 million) - in conjunction with a couple new trailers and sending the sixth graders to the middle school, I would have HAPPILY voted for it. This would have been a more down-to-earth, common sense approach, whereas the $70 million referendum seemed like a wish list that was predicated on the notion that all of the schools are equally affected, which is factually incorrect. And now apparently nothing will be done to address the overcrowding issue, because the schools couldn't have their massive referendum.
I'm very glad it was defeated and I hope that this is a lesson for next time - come up with a broader common sense solution that doesn't just throw money at the problem and instead actually solves the issue at hand. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of all is the fact that we pay the city to teach our kids to be problem solvers and dedicated, honest communicators, yet the educators were unwilling to be honest or engage in true problem solving when the time came. Hopefully they will reconsider their approach for next time. Thank you.
Editor's note: referenced "now-deleted article" was not on TAPinto Nutley