NUTLEY, NJ - While Turtle Back Zoo's Essex Ed predicted long winter, Nutley residents will have to wait until mid February to learn if they will vote on a bond referendum.

A crowd of approximately 70 attendees including Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, current members and former BOE member Robert Reid, Planning Board member Frank Contella, Commissioner Alphonse Petracco, Mayor Joe Scarpelli, school staff and parents, district office staff and a handful of Nutley citizens listened attentively to and spoke out  about proposed construction plans at Washington, Yantacaw, the High School and Middle Schools.

The Challenge: 21st Century Education in 18th Century School Buildings

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Nutley Superintendent Julie Glazer told the crowd that at a previous Town Hall she was asked: ‘So are you saying we are doing 21st century education in an 18th century school building’? The solutions shared with the attendees addressed the increase in our school aged population, aging buildings and the fact that we are experiencing the phenomenon known as the ‘shrinking classroom’ Shrinking classroom occurs when building usage space shrinks or is diminished due to changing educational program requirements such as robotics, basic skills instruction, after school programs, and resource instruction..

Last year the district received 131 requests from parents for students to not attend their ‘home’ schools. Most had to be denied due to lack of classroom space, caused in part by shrinking classrooms. According to Glazer, the district is already receiving requests for next year. It may be August before responses to where students will be attending school can be given to parents.

During the presentation on the proposed construction projects, Dr Glazer stated that she has been asked by the Spring Garden PTO, ‘how many more students are you sending us?’ One parent asked, ‘We’re not in this plan. With the uncertainty of [apartments and housing at Roche] in 5 years my concern is are you then going to focus on Spring Garden?’

Interesting Questions and Passionate Requests

For two hours, President Carnicella, Superintendent Glazer, Business Administrator Karen Yeamans and Architect  DiCara fielded questions, comments and requests from more than a dozen residents.

Questions asked centered around: Taxes, the Demographer’s Report, Roche Redevelopment, the Capital Reserve Fund, Previous Referendums, Construction costs, Contracts overrides and timelines and building new school(s) vs. renovating our existing schools. 

Ralph Chimento said. “Let’s stop putting band-aids on 100 year old buildings that are telling us I’m old, I’m finished.”  Chimento has been a Nutley homeowner since 2004, has one child currently in the district, one in private school and three who have graduated from the Nutley school system.

Another attendee requested that the district: ‘Build a new school that will be good for the next 100 years. These buildings are at the end of their lifespan. Build new, more efficient schools’. Board member Brenda Sherman asked the speaker if they had done ‘cost analysis’ on building new vs. additions and requested that any data be emailed to ideasandfeedback@nutleyschools.org.

Regarding taxes, Joan Rubino, who has lived in Nutley 48 years, said: “In this town, property taxes are getting to the point where they are equivalent to a second mortgage.”

Construction costs were a hot topic. Several attendees wanted to understand why the district was proposing additions rather than new construction. 

It was noted by one attendee that a new state of the art High School was recently built in Elizabeth NJ for a cost of $60 million. The 185,000 square-foot, four-story high school building accommodates 1,091 students in grades nine through 12 in three separate learning academies of 300 students each.  

When asked the per sq. ft. cost of the addition plans presented, architect Joe DiCara responded that it ‘varies based on the size of the addition and that the figures were based on previous bids on similar projects throughout New Jersey.’ For the Nutley school projects the range would be $350 to 400 per sq. ft. DiCara said.

(DiCara and Yeamans  provided answers to numerous questions related to specifically to bond referendums and construction estimates and details which will be covered in Part Two of the Spring Garden Town Hall meeting.)

“I am thankful to my colleagues, PTO and parents who came tonight. Interesting questions that need to be answered were asked and our Board is open to that.” Spring Garden Principal, Laurie LaGuardia said. District Communications director is continuously updating the Q&A to include new ideas, comments and questions submitted by citizens.

The updated District Q&A can be read here: https://www.nutleyschools.org/userfiles/828/my%20files/townhallquestionsjanuary1718and19%20(1).pdf?id=65076

The Board re-extended their invitation to all Nutley organizations, groups, clubs, families etc. to contact the district to schedule a presentation on the proposed projects to be included in the bond referendum.

Mayor Scarpelli said as he was leaving. “I’ve been to three of the presentations and I’ve been listening to the questions coming from the public and observing. More later.”

According to the Township Clerk’s office, the Board of Commissioners is invited to the February 15 Joint meeting of the Planning and Zoning Boards to discuss ‘land use and land use policy’. The BOE is also scheduled to give a presentation at that meeting.

TapIntoNutley will also be providing coverage of the final Town Hall:

  • Wednesday February 8 at 7pm -  Radcliffe School Media Center

Note: Look for TapintoNutley’s Bond Referendum Glossary coming soon.

Video of introductions here:   Courtesy of Eyes on Nutley

District Communications director(Add Karen Greco) is continuously updating the Q&A to include new ideas, comments and questions submitted by citizens.: https://www.nutleyschools.org/userfiles/828/my%20files/townhallquestionsjanuary1718and19%20(1).pdf?id=65076 

Look for extensive coverage of the two hour Q&A session in the weekend editions of TAPinto Nutley.

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