Referendum a reality or a distant dream?


Rachel Westervelt, Writer

At the last biweekly Board of Education (BOE) meeting Monday, October 25, Cranford citizens shared passionate opinions regarding current and proposed improvements to local schools, including Cranford High School. 

As described in detail at the September 19 meeting, the Board has begun the process of preparing a referendum movement that includes school additions to support full-day kindergarten (BAS, BPS, WAS, and HAS) and internal improvements and changes. Such modifications include, but are not limited to, air conditioning installation in select areas, electrical service upgrades, and science lab upgrades. 

This project, with an overall cost of approximately $10.2M, must be approved by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, according to the district business administrator, Robert Carfagno, before the board can attempt to put it on the ballot. Most notably, this approval addresses issues regarding flooding at Brookside Place School if they were to add an addition to support full-day kindergarten. 

At the most recent meeting, audience members had the opportunity to express their opinions regarding the referendum and ask any questions about the project moving forward. 

One audience member, Board Candidate Tom Grasso, pointed out that “physical improvements to existing learning spaces (tech upgrades, etc.) do not depend on DEP approval.” He suggests the possibility of separating the full-day kindergarten initiative from that for internal school improvements to quicken action towards enhancing learning environments for Cranford students. 

Another audience member, Mark Zucker, questioned the cost of such improvements for Cranford taxpayers, specifically those who do not have children in the Cranford school system. 

Further, the audience looked for updates regarding current school construction projects, specifically the process of fixing the ceiling in the Cranford High School auditorium. After outsourcing to various performing arts venues for numerous school performances, parents of students involved in such shows have experienced growing concern for how long it will be before their children are able to perform in their own theater again. 

According to Carfagno, the ceiling project is estimated to be finished sometime in December, in plenty of time for the Spring musical, but with construction delays and new lighting advancements, they cannot commit to a set date when the auditorium will reopen.

While residents remain hopeful, the outlook for the future of school improvements is complicated. Between waiting for DEP approval, getting out the vote, and then the process of hiring contractors and getting the work done, There is a high likelihood that such improvements will not come to fruition until long after current high school students graduate.