School bond referendum is critical (Letter to the Editor)
Montclair is presented with its first-ever school bond referendum. For decades, the task of funding Montclair schools was left in the hands of the Board of School Estimate, which decided what capital improvements would be funded. Last year, Montclair moved to an elected Board of Education. With that drastic change comes the opportunity for voters to vote on school budgets and for the voters to decide on such things as the upcoming bond referendum.
Reality is setting in. Our schools, with the exception of Bullock, are all very old buildings, with many built more than 100 years ago. For years Montclair has tried to put a Band-Aid on our crumbling schools’ infrastructure, making emergency repairs only when an emergency erupted, like the MHS staircase that collapsed, although MHS staircases had collapsed years earlier and Band-Aids were used to repair it. With the reality of having old buildings, we are now faced with a dilemma. Do we continue to use Band-Aids to fix our crumbling buildings or do we invest in needed repairs to bring our schools up to standard?
Our educational leaders have always faced dilemmas, we have lost three schools in the last 30 years. We lost our Pre-K, which we had since the 1990s, which was offered to all students. It was actually a two-year program, which worked well to educate our students. It brought both diversity and equity to our schools, until our leaders decided that it was too costly, eliminating our Pre-K program. Our leaders don’t always get it right.
Questions are being asked, why weren’t repairs done sooner? An excellent question; however, the answer will not yield any solutions to our school problems. Montclair now has old crumbling schools, with old leaky roofs, old boilers and an infrastructure that has seen better days. Couple that with a new-gen student population and staff whose safety and education we can no longer guarantee. So now, it’s up to us, the voting public, to vote for this bond referendum that will provide the necessary funding to fix our schools, improve the infrastructure and once again provide the level of education our students so desperately need and deserve. It’s on us to do what our leaders have failed to do.
Vote yes for the school bond referendum.
The writer is a former president of the Montclair NAACP.