NUTLEY, NJ — Following the rejection by the voters of the school district’s ballot measures this past election for the second year in a row, the Nutley Board of Education and the superintendent will need to find new ways to alleviate overcrowded classrooms.
The latest initiative was split into two questions – one that would authorize spending $58.62 million on classroom improvements, and the second which proposed funding $10.15 million of additional work. Both questions were rejected by fairly close margins.
Superintendent Julia Glazer addressed the issue at the Nov. 19 board of education meeting with a presentation titled, “What’s Next?”
“We just couldn’t think of anything better to call it,” Glazer said at the meeting. “Although it’s not desirable, we do need to move forward with plans to accommodate Nutley students and at the same time continue our positive trajectory for providing high-quality education.”
These past two referendums would have supported renovations and expansions in schools to eliminate crowding and accommodate state-mandated programs.
Now, plans to accommodate Nutley students include adding double-deck trailers for more instructional space and purchasing land behind John H. Walker Middle School; funds for these two proposals had already been added to the budget prior to the referendum vote. Also included in the discussions are constructing a double-deck trailer at Spring Garden School, an additional trailer at Washington School, and security fencing at Yantacaw School. The district estimates the cost of all these projects at $1.5 million to $2 million, which will come from the capital reserves.
“All of these costs deplete the capital reserves, which have taken over seven years to accumulate,” Glazer stated at the meeting.
The board had two modular units constructed at Washington and Yantacaw schools in 2016. There are also two additional trailers at Yantacaw; both were purchased used, one in 2002 and the second in 2006, which Glazer said will need to be replaced.
With this referendum, the board projected a tax impact of $331 per year for the average home from question No. 1 and $63 from question No. 2.
Glazer believes that this impact on taxes is one of the reasons for the referendum’s failure.
“While I think the community understands the need for additional instruction space, and our proposal for the enhanced educational opportunities of a grade six through eight middle school, any additional tax is a burden on many of Nutley’s taxpayers,” she said in an email on Nov. 21.
Regarding the recent vote, she stated she remained optimistic until the very end.
“This was a very close election, and I am disappointed,” Glazer said. “This board has diligently pursued a long-term solution for the lack of instructional space, and the opportunity to remove trailers from the schools. They have explored every available option.”
She and the board have identified multiple factors that have contributed to the district’s lack of instructional space.
“Development in town is most often cited by the community as the reason for overcrowding, and this is certainly a factor, but turnover in single-family housing also contributes,” Glazer said. “Previous boards also brought us full-day kindergarten and our applied behavior analysis programs.”
Demographic reports from 1995 and on have detailed that overcrowding throughout the district was inevitable.
An annual report from the 1963-64 school year, which was sent to Glazer, also detailed overcrowding issues in both Yantacaw and Radcliffe schools.
“It’s been an ongoing issue,” she said, “but I remain optimistic that by working together, we’re going to continue to look at every option and we’re going to provide the best education possible for our students.”