Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Letter to Parents about the December Referendum

Following is the text of a letter that was mailed this week to parents in the school district. The purpose was to lay out all the facts on the upcoming referendum, so parents can make an informed vote. The letter was accompanied by a Fact Sheet with a school-by-school breakdown. Click here to read the Fact Sheet.

The facts about Referendum 2009

Dear Parents,
On December 8, 2009 Ridgewood voters will be asked to vote on a bond referendum. Before going to the polls we want voters to have the facts in order to make an informed decision. Our school buildings, built between 1919 and 1966, are in need of capital improvements. We also need additional instructional space to keep pace with enrollment increases for our general education and special education programs.

The cost of the bond referendum is $48 million and will allow us to complete needed repairs and capital projects at all of our schools and to add classrooms to GW Middle School, Hawes, Ridge, and Willard. It also includes building a 400-meter track at BF Middle School and installing synthetic turf on Stevens and the RHS Stadium fields.

New Jersey approves our construction needs & offers money to help offset costs.

For over a year, the Board of Education’s Facilities Committee performed an in-depth review of every building. The committee consulted principals, reviewed the District’s five-year facilities plan and RHS engineering study, studied energy conservation opportunities and worked with our architects to prioritize needs. Last winter, we applied to the state for construction grant money, and the state approved our request, validating our needs assessment and awarding Ridgewood $9.8 million in direct grant aid towards the building projects and $2.1 million in debt service aid for the track at BF and for improvements on Stevens and RHS stadium fields. This state aid will lessen the burden on taxpayers and reduce the amount the district will have to borrow. With this state aid commitment, the total bond amount will be $38 million, and the tax impact on the average Ridgewood home valued at $802,107 would be $300.55 a year on a 25-year bond assuming a 4.75% borrowing rate.

Our continued growth: 50 new students every year…for 10 years.

The enclosed Fact Sheet outlines the carefully considered repair/capital improvement and energy conservation projects included in the bond referendum. In addition, proposed additions at GW, Hawes, Ridge and Willard address our need for more instructional space. With enrollment having grown by 500 students over the last 10 years, space limitations have resulted in instruction currently happening in school hallways, in subdivided classrooms and in principals’ offices.

It’s imperative that our facilities meet the educational needs of our students.

In recent years, our number of special education students has increased to 14.3% or a little over 800 students. Our special education students who require individualized programs have moved from school to school, as space is available. As we build new classrooms at Ridge, Willard, and Hawes, we will be able to minimize the moving of our special education classes and allow these students to remain in the same school for all of their elementary years. At the same time, classroom space will be freed-up at Somerville, Travell, and Orchard, eliminating the need to redistrict. New instructional space will also include new library/media centers at Willard and GW and a new full-size gymnasium at GW with enough bleacher seating for the entire student body.

Improving our wellness & athletic facilities.

Currently the Ridgewood High School fields are not appropriately sized nor resilient enough to allow use by multiple athletic teams. In addition, the RHS track is too small for our track team to hold competitive meets. For these reasons, the Stadium field often sits empty, contributing to the District-wide and Village-wide field shortage as identified in the Village’s Recreation Master Plan. It is time to address these deficiencies.

Our plan allows for construction of a regulation 400-meter natural grass-center track at BF and installation of a synthetic surface on the RHS Stadium and Stevens fields. At the Stadium, a smaller track will remain for PE classes and community use. These improved fields will enable girls and boys to play soccer and lacrosse, in addition to football, on site at the high school, and will add needed outside teaching stations for physical education and Project Adventure. Detailed plans for these synthetic fields have been submitted to the NJ DEP for review and approval.

As the community has seen the merits of the synthetic field at Maple Park, the addition of synthetic fields at RHS will further reduce the wear and tear on our grass fields, will bring high school sports back to the high school campus, and will provide our student athletes and youth rec sports players with additional quality playing surfaces.

Know the facts. Get your questions answered.

Please familiarize yourself with information about our proposed projects. All of the school and field plans are posted on the district web site at www.ridgewood.k12.nj.us under the Board of Education link. Soon, information sessions will be held at each school and in homes throughout the Village, providing opportunities to hear more and ask questions. Guided tours of our schools will be scheduled and open to the public.

On December 8th make an informed decision about the Ridgewood Public Schools’ bond referendum.


Joseph Vallerini
Robert Hutton
Sheila Brogan
Michele Lenhard
Laurie Goodman

P.S. Questions are welcome! We want you to have the facts in order to make an informed decision on Election Day. Please email referendum09@ridgewood.k12.nj.us or call 201-670-2700 ext. 10530 with any questions.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the district needs an improved track facility and the ability to hold competitive meets. I'm wondering, though, how that squares with the potential for years of construction at Valley. Will kids be able to run track there while breathing the added dust and debris from next door?

Laurie said...

Part of the Developer's Agreement that Valley would have to create with the Village would be stipulations about when potential high-dust activities (demolition, etc.) would take place -- things like time of year, specific dates and time of day. Air quality standards would need to be agreed-to with the Village, and regular testing conducted, so that levels would remain safe for our students, whether they are in classrooms, in gym class or running on the track after school. Valley representatives have stated their intention to include provisions such as these in the Agreement with the Village, and I would expect the Board to give input as that Agreement is created.