Montclair Board of Education Invites Community to Special Meeting on Bond Referendum

Baristanet Year In Review 2021

Montclair, NJ —Montclair Board of Education invites the community to attend its Special Meeting on Monday, March 28 at 6:30 PM when a proposal for a bond referendum will be presented. The bond proposal focuses on critical health and safety facility needs and invests in structural enhancements that impact student instruction. Funding this bond
referendum will allow for all Montclair’s 11 public schools to improve their operations for the best interests of students and families. This investment in schools is an investment in the community of Montclair.

The district faced a significant challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic because of its very old buildings and antiquated ventilation systems. District administration immediately engaged architects and engineers to mediate these structural problems in such a way as to protect the health and safety of its personnel and students and maintain teaching and learning. However, the following issues still need to be addressed:

Inadequate ventilation systems
Antiquated roofs
Heating systems and boilers that must be replaced and other items that have deteriorated over decades of use
Upgrades to classrooms for 21st century learning

The Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee has spent many months exploring and investigating the buildings’ needs with the administration and the district’s architects, Parette Somjen. Beyond addressing the infrastructure which is foundational to this plan, the referendum includes upgrading classrooms to afford our students opportunities to benefit from 21st century teaching and learning strategies. Committee Chair Eric Scherzer said, “Approving this bond is a necessary step to ensure our students have the benefits of
safe, quality learning environments. Our facilities have been neglected for too long, and it is time to address the present needs and to prepare for the years to come.”

Superintendent Jonathan Ponds along with School Principals and architects from Parette Somjen have been engaged in building walk-throughs and meetings since last year to optimize a plan that thoroughly addresses facility projects in need of immediate action. “Security features and indoor air quality projects are critical and non-negotiable,” said Ponds. “Our students deserve safe and healthy environments to learn and achieve their
highest potential. As you know, I believe all kids can learn and all kids are special, and now, in Montclair, we have an opportunity to prove that we will put our full weight behind this theory, and give our students the spaces and learning environments they need to make this theory a reality.”

The Board encourages residents as well as town officials to attend the meeting to learn about the proposal and hear firsthand what the renovations and improvements would mean for the schools and community. The Finance and Facilities Committee and the full Board are eager to get the input of the community on this proposal before making final decisions on exactly which items should be included. The improvements that can be made with approval of this bond referendum are the backbone of assuring that Montclair maintains the excellence expected of its school community and all points of view are welcome.

This Special Board Meeting will be held in person March 28, 6:30 PM, at the George Inness Annex Atrium, 141 Park St., with parking on No. Fullerton. It can also be streamed live by using the link on our website found the day of the meeting or watched on Verizon TV33. Questions from the public will be taken both in person and virtually. For in-person comments or questions, use the sign-up sheet at the meeting and for virtual comments use the link provided on the website the day of the meeting.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. True to form, the sub-total/total numbers on their Master Plan spreadsheet don’t add up. I told you this town stinks at math. Apparently as does the District’s architect.

    OK, stupid, careless mistake. But, there is more! The projected 2022-2023 HVAC Phases 2 & 3 Spend, given to the BoSE in October, 2021 was $53MM. I think it was the same figure as were presented in May, 2021.

    Nine months prior to the BoSE fiasco, the HVAC preliminary spend was $38MM. What changed in a year? They added $13MM to do MHS’s Furlong Field House. OK, the field house is only 9,300 SF total. Where we are spending, for a million SF of instruxtional space, $38MM on HVAC at around $50/sf. The field house is coming in over $1,300/sf. (I didn’t waste my time doing cubic conversions).

    Someone should ask them about the SDA capital funding.

    Hey, it is all for the kids.

  2. And when you look at the spend overall, it becomes painfully obvious which buildings are the sacred cows – Renaissance, Edgemont and….the perennial, Watchung. And Watchung previously got a AC system. Back in the day Watchung scored very highly. Today – same ‘ol, same ‘ol.

    You know where to send the bill.

  3. I’m watching the other Special Meeting, the BoE’s. This meeting is better than The Slap @ the Oscars. Now the BoE, the PTAC, et al have increased the capital needs another $37MM from less than 6 months ago. This is after the BoE increased it $$15MM from May’21. Now they are asking for $190MM in November.

    Of that, 40%, $77MM, is for Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC). The architects who compiled the list don’t have expertise in HVAC. They subcontracted this out. And the meeting gets better the longer I watch.

    I am having some pangs of guilt for my past criticism of our land use boards compared to what I’m witnessing tonight. Truth be told, I think we should spend $250MM or $300MM. Why are Montclair taxpayers settling for a measly $190MM when it is all about the children.

    People, please speak up and support us going higher. I’ll compromise and settle for $275MM. We can afford to pay more than the $880 in additional property taxes. I think anything we can do under $2,000 added property taxes is a bargain.

  4. I am old. I have done some of this, I have seen some of that. However, I don’t associate with the likes of those that publish a 9-digit spend plan and still throw in two placeholders for zero cents. $190,000,000.00!

    This superintendent now scares me. He is clearly intimidated by zeroes.

    I wouldn’t trust such a person to complete a 1040-EZ form correctly. But, that’s just me. All the more educated residents out there, that have math skills, probably appreciate the detail. I defer to your interests and to your progeny.

  5. Someone might want to ask Mr Ponds, Ms Church or Mr Scherzer how much State reimbursement we are expecting from the Watchung Field & Playground project. I might be mistaken, but I think we are eligible to be reimbursed $29MM. Of course, even though we are Montclair – Go Blue! – we are expected to file some paperwork for it. Nah, this is chump change.

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