The planets are in alignment (Letter to the Editor)
It is often said that timing is everything. This is one of those rare moments. The planets are all in alignment on the school bond referendum.
Although counterintuitive, COVID caused the state of New Jersey to have a large budget surplus. Funding that was previously earmarked solely for school construction in Abbott school districts was temporarily expanded to fund other districts that are in need of fundamental school repairs and modernization … districts such as Montclair. But the money doesn’t come easily and it won’t be there forever.
A district applying for large state support has to justify the need and demonstrate a cohesive and credible plan. Our current Board of Education rose to the occasion. They hired the best regional school architectural firm. They dug deep into our school infrastructure and consulted with all the stakeholders. The evidence was conclusive. Across the board, our 100-year-old schools need upgrades and modernization. Some of the needs are urgent and pressing, such as roofs and boilers that are unquestionably beyond their useful life. Other needs are to upgrade classroom layouts and technology, to upgrade our labs, and to provide better performing arts and sports facilities.
The state has approved our plan with a binding state contribution of $58 million payable over the five-year period of our school construction schedule and during the life of our debt service. Money that we will never receive unless we vote “yes” on the school bond referendum.
We have a complicated school district. We rightfully have made equity and inclusion a major priority. We also have a major priority of providing fantastic teachers that can teach at the highest levels. Our graduates continually get admitted to the best colleges in the country. We must provide facilities reasonably calculated to meet all of our goals. We can and must do it all, for all of our kids.
Probably the best way to judge a community is by how it treats its children. We can’t be a town known for well-maintained older homes and antiquated crumbling schools. We can’t be distracted by the current disarray in the Township Council, which is a completely separate entity and has no authority over the Board of Education. The current Board of Ed is working well and on all cylinders. With the guidance of some volunteer township residents who have worked at the highest levels of the construction industry, plans are well underway to retain proper management to assure competent execution of these necessary projects. Please vote yes on Nov. 8.