Education

Washington School Draws Largest Crowd to Learn about School Overcrowding Plans

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Superintendent of Schools Dr. Julie Glazer Credits: John Lee / TAPinto Nutley
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President Danny Carnicella Credits: John Lee / TAPinto Nutley
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NUTLEY, NJ - Construction projects proposed for four Nutley district schools were presented at Town Hall meetings last week. The largest and most vocal crowd gathered at Washington School on Thursday. Attendees asked questions, provided ideas and expressed concerns during Q & A following a power point presentation on the proposed $66.5 million bond referendums.

$66.5 Million September 2017 School District Referendum Proposed by Nutley Board of Education

Approximately 100 parents and citizens joined more than 35 enthusiastic Washington School staff members for the forum. Also attending were district office staff, Board of Education members as well as Commissioner Petracco.

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$6.95Million is the proposed investment at WASHINGTON Elementary.

  • 6 classrooms in a 3-story addition
  • Toilet facilities
  • Elevator
  • Removal of trailers

Washington Community Comments, Questions, and Ideas  

The first comment from the parent of a Washington 3rd grader drew applause. ‘I know the middle school needs a whole school and I am fully supportive of that. [however] Why would I buy to send my kid to Washington when I see a cafeteria, multi-purpose rooms in other schools in other parts of town? He added: “How can I vote for something when…I’m going to be the have-not.”

In response, architect Joe DiCara took the audience through different options that were originally looked at on the land-locked property. President Carnicella added that after obtaining all feedback, the Board will decide on any revisions to the current plans and bond amount. He said: “We are trying to balance a dollar amount with the amount of space that we can create.”

Several voiced concern that Washington plans did not include a multi-purpose room. It was noted that Yantacaw had less students and yet their plan included a this addition. One speaker noted that 60 to 70% of Yantacaw students go out to lunch daily while all of the Washington students stay on campus for lunch. She said: “We have children eating in the gym and classrooms. We need a place to have these children eat.” A suggestion was made to eliminate the old boiler equipment to create additional space even if additional cost was incurred.

TAPinto Nutley confirmed that the kitchen at Yantacaw will also service Spring Garden school. At present all lunches for the elementary schools are prepared at the high school. That change would result in fresher and hotter lunches at Washington and other schools.

Dr. Glazer noted that 300 hundred students will be moved out of the elementary schools to the middle school. All 6th graders will be coming out of Washington and freeing up 3 or 4 classrooms allowing for a different kind of lunch scheduling. According to Principal Doug Jones, currently the school has three 5th grade sections with 76 students. It is possible there may be a need for a fourth section of 6th grade next year if there is an increase in students from grade 5 to grade 6 as was the case this year. 

The Superintendent said everything on the list of items needed to remedy school overcrowding was prioritized based on number of students, the number of existing and needed spaces and the demographics vs. individual schools. She emphasized plans presented at the forums are concepts and requested the Nutley community have confidence that the board is working to address all needs, concerns and feedback. 

Joe DiCara, principle of DiCara Rubino Architects, described initial steps for determining space utilization as:

  1. Take the existing number of classrooms 
  2. Look at the class size policy 
  3. Take the population per grade level – not total population
  4. Divide into the class size policy
  5. Result is the number of sections per grade
  6. Identify existing spaces and program areas

Projections given by the architect for 30 year population growth were questioned. It was the opinion of the speaker that the proposed additional six classes will be utilized much sooner than 30 years. “Are we going to be revisiting this maybe 7 or 8 years down the road when we are going to need more space again?”

Glazer replied that the district is able to confidently project the population growth over the next 10 years based on: actual students in actual homes, plus the available information we have on new construction or new properties being approved. She said. “This is a not a bubble. This is a group of students that are growing up through our school district. This is a solution for 15 to 20 years.”

After acknowledging the pride and commitment of the Washington teachers, one PTO parent pleaded with the Board to "please take one more look to see if there is any way that we can get our children out of the gym for lunch" This request was followed by another parent stating that she felt there needs to be something in the plan to makes the 500 families from the Washington area and the people in the room ‘feel better about it’. “It’s not like we’re projecting it to be bad. It’s already bad. We’ve watched our kids go from 30 minutes (lunch) to 20 minutes and be rushed.

The audience applauded when a parent expressed the importance of physical education. She shared that her son told her it takes 15 minutes for the cafeteria to be cleaned up before gym class can begin. She told the board that if they are adding classrooms, they needed to add a gymnasium.

This concern was further enforced by the parent of a kindergarten student who said: “Forty five children in that small gym at once is ridiculous. I don’t think it’s safe. They have to have gym and should be able to enjoy it.”

Final Requests and Next Steps

The mother of a first and second grader stated that the one thing that came out of the forum for her was that more work was needed on the plans. She thanked the Board members and urged them to view our students and teachers holistically, considering all of their needs when revising the plans.

The inevitable question was eventually asked: What is the next option if the referendum does not pass? The teacher expressed concern that Washington has to come up with another classroom for next year with no plan how to do this because ‘we are teaching in closets and in hallways as it is. What do we do then?’

After applause from the teachers in attendance, Dr Glazer responded. “What happens is increased class sizes. Keeping these trailers and adding additional trailers. ..sections closed… waivers denied...The charm of this town is in your neighborhoods, is in your schools…is in all of the things you have created over time. If it doesn’t pass we are in the reality of not having what you have had up until now.” Carnicella added that the success of the September vote depended on what the Board ultimately determined to be the “final number.”

According to Superintendent Glazer the board is going to continue working with the architects to refine the plans. She said, ‘The board will take feedback gathered in the next month and consider in closed session on February 13 before voting on what it intends to do.’ If the Board decides to move forward with the first referendum, Nutley voters will go to the polls September 2017 to decide on investing in construction projects to eliminate school overcrowding. Students would begin classes in the new educational spaces in 2020.

Nutley citizens attending the BOE public meeting Feb 27 at 7pm in the JHWMS Music Room will learn the Board’s decision. 

WATCH:  2017-01-19 Referendum Town Hall Video Click here: Washington Town Hall

READ: Frequently Asked Questions

SUBMIT: Your Comments, Ideas and Questions toideasandfeedback@nutleyschools.org

Watch for TapIntoNutley articles this week on the Town Hall meetings that took place at Yantacaw and Lincoln Schools. We will also be providing coverage of the upcoming meetings:

  • Wed Feb 1 at 7pm - Spring Garden School Auditorium
  • Wed Feb 8 at 7pm -  Radcliffe School Media Center

TAPintoNutley.net is an online newspaper serving the Township of Nutley. TAPintoNutley.net is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is the only locally owned news organization serving the community. Sign up for our FREE daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @TAPintoNutley  Got a news tip? email us at Nutley@TAPinto.net 

 

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