Dear Parents and School Community Members,
In our ongoing effort to ensure our community is well informed for the December 13 referendum vote, I write to share information on the purpose and significance of the proposed projects.
With a view toward preparing our students for a lifetime of learning and working in a global community, this referendum is designed to align our learning spaces with our instructional vision and upgrade our infrastructure. It includes plans to transform spaces, enhance security, ensure ADA compliance, update technology infrastructure, save energy costs, replace outdated HVAC and building systems, and create safe, healthy spaces where our students and staff can thrive. The community has the opportunity to make an investment in its schools and, at the same time, benefit from more than $5M in state aid toward the project costs that total approximately $15.7M.
As part of the planning phase, we have reimagined instructional spaces, intentionally aligning them with our district vision for learning. The plan calls for transforming Valley View’s worn library/media center into a 21st-century learning commons that would become the hub of the school and inspire student inquiry, agency, and collaboration. An extension of the learning commons to an outdoor courtyard and a new art studio would complement the indoor commons and our existing STEM lab, promoting design thinking and creative problem solving. In addition, much of the necessary interior upgrades at Bayberry include replacing classroom casework, flooring, and bathrooms that are original to the school, dating back to the 1960s.
Two referendum questions are on the ballot. The first proposes the important educational and infrastructural upgrades outlined above, in the amount of $12.8M. The annual tax impact of the first question would be $260 on the assessed value of the average home, which is currently $760,895. The second question, which is contingent on the passing of the first, proposes the outdoor learning commons and a repurposed field at Valley View, along with air conditioning added to the gymnasiums at both schools, with project costs amounting to $2.9M. The annual tax impact of the second question would be $63 on the assessed value of the average home.
If the referendum does not pass, the district would have to abandon the enhanced instructional spaces for our students and budget for more building repairs and supplies, instead of additional needed teachers. For a summary of highlights and more detailed information including a projects list, full tax-impact analysis, and frequently asked questions, visit our Referendum webpage on the district website.
Please remember to vote on Tuesday, December 13. The polling location is the Watchung Exempt Firemen Hall at 57 Mountain Boulevard. The polls will be open from 6:00 am - 8:00 pm. Thank you for your attention to this important decision affecting the future of our schools.
George P. Alexis