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Millburn School Officials Outline Capital Projects, Discuss Diwali, and Plan to Re-register Students

Bob Faszczewski

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 • 10:21am

MILLBURN, NJ—The Millburn Board of Education on Monday was presented with proposed capital projects to be financed out of the school district’s general fund, which is raised year to year through the tax levy, and projects to be financed through the capital reserve, which are paid for partially through school district capital reserve funding and partially through the state Regular Operating Districts or RODs grants.

General fund construction projects proposed for this year, totaling $293,545, were presented by school business administrator Steven DiGeronimo and director of buildings and grounds John Van Teeckelenburg.

In the athletics realm, these include $18,000 for installation and $2,500 for architectural and engineering fees in connection with the new scoreboard at Millburn High School’s Miller Field and $30,000 for repair of various tennis courts—chiefly the second doubles court—at the school.

DiGeronimo noted that architectural and engineering advice is needed because of the concrete base on which the scoreboard will rest.

Other projects financed through the general fund will include:

$67,500 for the middle school, including $13,000 for concrete front steps, $15,500 for a concrete walkway, $25,000 for concrete rear steps and $14,000 for repaving of the lower parking lot.

$175,545 for Wyoming School, including $130,545 for concrete walks along Pine and Cypress Streets, $25,000 to replace steps on the Cypress Street side of the school and $20,000 to replace an existing PVC fence in the front of the building with a chainlink fence.

The business administrator added that. due to costs, the board decided to delay replacement of the Glenwood School roof until the next budget cycle. The cost of that project is estimated at $239,753 including $22,200 in architectural and engineering fees. 

DiGeronimo also noted that the district hopes to apply for RODs grant funding for the Glenwood project next year and that should complete the district’s RODs grant applications.

Capital reserve projects outlined on Monday all involve roof replacements, totaling $2,791,241, wirh the district picking up $1,674,745 of the costs and the state grants paying for $1,116,496.

The individual project costs include:

$1,249,560 for a section of the high school roof

$1,194,428 for a section of the Deerfield School roof

$347,253 for a section of the roof on Wyoming School.

On possible referendum projects, superintendent of schools James Crisfield emphasized that none of the projects were set in stone and suggested projects were a combination of items presented by the district’s strategic planning committees—about 20 percent of the total—and those presented by individual school officials during “walk-throughs” of each facility—the other 80 percent of the total.

The superintendent noted, as he had in the past, that the board has not yet made a decision on whether a referendum, will be held and which specific projects will be recommended in any final package on a referendum. He said the school body probably would have to make a decision on any referendum this summer.

The most expensive item on the list would be $13,936,000 for classroom air conditioning in all the school buildings, followed by $9,259,750 for replacement of boiler rooms in all the schools, $3,415,000 for fire and burglar alarm upgrades in all the schools, $1,562,500 for chairs, finishes, lighting and acoustical upgrades and replacement of heating, ventillation and air conditioning in the high school auditorium, $393,750 for roof replacement on the education center, and $85,005 for card-swipe entry systems in the elementary schools.

Other items under study on the list include 21st century learning spaces, to be more clearly defined at a future board meeting, a music MIDI lab at the high school and enhancement of the senior lounge at the high school.

Crisfield noted that in making choices about which projects would go forward, for example, replacement of fire and burglar alarm systems would receive more attention because of their effect on student safety than replacement of toilet rooms.

On the matter of school safety, South Mountain School parent Kara Tomko said parents had discussed with district security officer Michael Palardy, Jr. research into replacing the current screens on the school’s windows with bulletproof screens.

Tomko said the screens, manufactured by a Mississippi company, would better protect district children, especially in light of recent school shootings.

Board president Jeffrey Waters supported the idea of possibly researching the bulletproof screens because of the need for school security.

On an item of continuing discussion, program committee chairwoman Regina Truit said her committee will continue to study data about possible changes in the school calendar before making a decision on whether to recommend closing schools for additional ethnic, cultural or religious holidays.

Although applauding the continued discussion, several residents urged the board to come to a decision shortly on the addition of holidays, especially the Indian festival of lights, or Diwali.

A Hindu priest from Montvale who spoke at Monday’s meeting noted the festival was celebrated by a number of religions in addition to Hinduism by millions of people all over India.

He said the festival is marked as the beginning of the solar new year and it involves prayer in the morning, afternoon and evening to the many manifestations of god, culminating with evening prayer to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Speaking about Diwali, one resident said although the board committee was correct in studying data before making a decision it was unfair to gather data on one religion when it had not made such a study when approving school closings for other religions.

In another committee report, property chairman John Westfall-Kwong reported sixth grade students would be reregistered in April and ninth graders in May.

He added his committee would confer by telephone and report back to the full board this week as soon as it received a residency report from residency.com about whether or not non-residents of the township had illegally sent their children to Millburn schools.

On another topic, resident Douglas Cundey continued to speak out against implementation of Core Curriculum standards in the Millburn schools.

Cundey wanted to know whether the township school board was required to comply with a state mandate for Core Curriculum. He said loss of the 2 to 3 percent of its budget representing state aid would be worth it so that Millburn students would not be bound by the standards.

He added the standards, which were being forced on local schools by the federal government, would result in the lowering of standards in highly-regarded districts like Millburn and loss of local control of the schools. 

Cundey also said the gathering of information through Common Core testing would be used to establish a national database on every child.

In addition, he noted, mathematical standards to be set through the program were so out of touch that the only mathematician on a state certifying board for the curriculum resigned. He also said implementation of the system would do away with the teaching of cursive writing and would mandate the teaching of subjects in the schools slanted toward certain political beliefs such as proposing only one point of view on climate change and other topics.

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