As Board members speak with community members at HSA meetings, neighborhood coffees, cocktail parties or on the sidelines, I’m surprised nearly every day with some of the questions I get or the rumors I’m asked to confirm or deny. I’m surprised because it seems like no matter how hard we try to get the facts out there, many people still have many questions (and some people haven’t even heard of the upcoming vote!).
Here are some of the more “out there” comments I heard this past week:
Rumor: "If the Referendum fails, they will redistrict the middle schools, and force some students to move from GW to BF." (Variation: "All Village 6th graders will go to GW and all Village 7th and 8th graders will go to BF.")
Fact: Moving middle school kids around from one side of town to the other is not going to solve our space problems. And consolidating two full grades at BF would mean a population of 800 students…that is not something BF could physically accommodate. Besides that, an 800-student middle school is a completely different environment, educationally, logistically and socially—which would create a whole new slate of issues. Finally, the transportation costs alone to bus kids across town would make this extremely cost-prohibitive.
Rumor: "The track at BF will have an artificial turf field inside."
Fact: The infield of the new track at BF will be a natural grass field.
Rumor: "Ridge and Willard will get computers and Smartboards as part of the referendum, while our school had to fundraise for those things."
Fact: There is no technology -- no computers and no Smartboards -- in the Referendum projects. Ridge and Willard will have Computer Labs added, but those are just new rooms that will house the labs. Currently Ridge's computer lab is in the hallway.
Rumor: "BF students will not be allowed to use the track and field at their school, as it will be reserved for high school students."
Fact: BF students will have complete use of the track and field, including gym classes and afterschool intramurals.
Comment: "The Referendum is not fair for schools such as Somerville or Orchard, which are not scheduled for major renovations or expansions."
Answer: The Board must look at the needs of the entire District as a whole. There’s no east side or west side when we look at needs. We could point out that Somerville was expanded in the last referendum and Orchard has had many projects completed in recent years. The selection of projects included in the referendum should make it clear that we did not simply “give” every school something. We truly balanced the needs of the entire district.
Comment: "We can’t trust the BOE to spend our money wisely. Look how much money and time they just wasted on the new bathrooms at Vets Field."
Answer: Huh? Sorry. OK, here’s the deal: the Board of Education and the School District are completely separate from the Village of Ridgewood. We don’t share budgets, we don’t share management, we don’t share ownership of properties… The bathrooms at Vets are a Village project, not the schools.
However, to address any worries about trusting the BOE with the finances: our budget for these projects is set. The amount that we bond for is the maximum we can spend. We simply are not allowed, by law, to go over budget. If our contingency doesn’t cover change orders due to some unforeseen expensive development, we are required to reduce or eliminate other projects to come in at the $48 million amount. We can’t just pass an ordinance if we need more money. We will hire a construction manager to examine and justify each and every invoice and change order.
More comments and questions to come…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org