Monday night’s Board of Ed. meeting was packed with parents and residents, many of them Renaissance and Edgemont schools. One Edgemont parent stayed until 12:30 am before she headed home, and said she didn’t get any real answers.
The BOE is really just at the beginning of the process. Board member Robin Kulwin started with remarks about all the “rumors” about the closure of schools. “Nothing has been decided yet and these are just rumors.” However, the board also remarked, “There are NO SACRED COWS, nothing is off the table.” Shirley Grill stated that small schools are a luxury in this economic climate and that consolidating schools may be necessary, which clearly was aimed at Renaissance School.
Board members had a first chance to discuss the suggestions made by working groups who presented findings and ideas in the last few months: Finance Group, Pay to Participate, Transportation, Alternate Revenue and Special Education.
Some ideas discussed were:
- Increasing the eligibility to ride the bus, at 1.25 miles instead of 1 mile, saving $145,000. They would also consider eliminating busing from the 2 centrally located elementary schools (Edgemont and Watchung), with a cost savings of $240,000.
- Eliminating bus aides, which could save over $200,000.
- Bringing back as many of the special education students that go out-of-district (90 total, at an average cost of $85,000 per student)
- Shelly Lombard, and half of the board, felt more resources need to be allocated to the high school. Principal Earle will speak at the next meeting on December 20 about creating small learning communities at MHS.
- An Edgemont parent (a Real Estate Investment Banker and husband of Christine McGoey, one of the founders of SOS) made recommendations about a sell/lease option of the BOE building site, including the Montclair Community Pre-K and the garage. Another Edgemont parent, Jessica Freeman, had a commercial realtor assess the BOE building site, which is the only Montclair BOE building zoned for commercial purposes, at $12 million. She stated that commercial property in Montclair, now, is going for an average of 75% of assessed value. She stated BOE could move to the empty rooms in Bullocks or the Rand building.
- Full day kindergarten seems safe, as most of the board felt it would under serve the children who need it the most–low socio-economic.