Planet Princeton

Princeton Public Schools board should scrap and redo facilities plan

An open letter to parents of Princeton Public Schools children:

The $130 million school referendum vote has been postponed again due to delays in obtaining New Jersey Department of Education approval. Previously, the $130 million referendum was scheduled for a taxpayer vote on October 2, then separated into two ballot questions, and rescheduled for November 6. As I have indicated before, there are no new teachers budgeted within the $130 million school bond that, if approved, will cost almost $300 million to repay with interest and higher operating expenses. This is wasteful spending that will subtract from our children’s academic experience.

Thirty residents attended the September 4 Princeton Board of Education meeting and spoke in opposition to the referendum. The Board of Education was provided a petition signed by 140 residents opposing the referendum. A long term Princeton resident and former mayor spoke in opposition to the referendum and the “overcrowding” that is the basis for the proposed high school expansion.

Others spoke about the unaffordable impact on the low income community. The petition asked that the referendum vote be postponed a year, until November of 2019, to allow time for the Board of Education “Do its homework.”

I believe it is time for the board of education to pull this ill-conceived and poorly designed facilities plan, and start anew. The board of education plan is not worthy of our support. There are better plans that would allow us to address our critical facility needs and still hire new teachers. Please be aware that while student enrollment has increased over 12% the last ten years, our full time equivalent teaching staff has increased only 2.3%. In other words, on a per pupil basis, we have fewer teachers today than ten years ago and the $130 million facilities plan will only make this worse.

The proposed new grade 5/6 school is glitzy, but experimental. We know that bullying increases with the transition to middle school. I prefer to continue to nurture our children in our four elementary schools.

We can relieve overcrowding at Princeton High School by ending the Cranbury send and receive agreement. It is wasteful to borrow $58 million to expand the high school and provide “flexible learning spaces” for 280 students from outside our community. New Jersey law does not allow a sending school to participate in the school referendum and share all the costs and risks that Princeton, the receiving school, must assume.

We need to unify our community behind a responsible and fiscally sustainable facilities plan. The Princeton Public Schools have critical facilities needs that will not be addressed any time soon if the board of education continues to promote their plan that has virtually no community support.

It is time for parents of Princeton Public Schools children to ask the board of education to withdraw this plan, so we can develop a new plan with community support, to address the critical facilities needs of our schools.

Please forward this letter to parents of Princeton Public School children and ask them to contact the board of education to address the critical facilities needs of our schools by withdrawing their plan that lacks critical community support.

Daniel Dart, parent of Princeton Public Schools student

Mr. Dart is a candidate for the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education 

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