In a Historic Show of Unity, More than 80% of Town Voters Back $188 Million Proposal to Repair and Modernize the Township’s Long-Neglected Public School Buildings and Decaying Infrastructure
Montclair voters today overwhelmingly approved the Board of Education’s $188 million bond referendum to repair and upgrade the Township’s long-neglected public school buildings and decaying infrastructure. With 38 of 41 districts reporting, more than 80 percent of voters affirmed the plan to modernize the District in order to meet health and safety requirements, building codes, and educational standards.
Each of Montclair’s public schools will receive needed improvements, with several of the oldest buildings — including Hillside ($25.5 million), Glenfield Middle School ($24.7 million), and Montclair High School ($48.5 million) — requiring the most extensive repairs (see pie chart below). The Township’s 11 schools were built 99 years ago on average.
The State of New Jersey supported the project by agreeing to cover 31 percent — $58 million — of the total cost of the plan in the form of debt service payments.
“This is thrilling news for Montclair and its families,” said School Board President Latifah Jannah. “Voters decided last year that they and not town officials should have the final say on school bond proposals. Today they exercised that new right by overwhelmingly supporting a once-in-a-generation referendum that will literally transform Montclair public schools. It’s a wonderful moment for the town, and I want to thank the state for its generous support.”
“The town’s decisive commitment to the success of students is tremendously gratifying,” said Superintendent Jonathan C. Ponds. “We know high-quality learning spaces boost academic performance and convey to young people that we value their well-being and their future. Bright new classrooms and state-of-the-art learning technology will strengthen school climates and provide our educators with the educational tools they and our students have long deserved.”
The referendum includes 25 separate construction projects across the district, including HVAC upgrades totaling $75.7 million — currently only one school is air-conditioned and the COVID epidemic exposed vulnerabilities in schools’ air-quality systems — and nearly $27 million to upgrade classrooms. The Board, in consultation with an advisory panel of local experts, will hire a construction management firm to oversee logistics, procurement and costs, scheduling, and proper completion of the projects.
“The community showed today it is united in support of the bond plan and we’re focused on providing the level of oversight and accountability voters expect,” said Eric Scherzer, Chair of the School Board’s Finance & Facilities Committee, which led the bond effort. “It’s very encouraging that a number of highly accomplished area builders and large-scale project managers have already volunteered to advise the Board in selecting a construction manager. Going forward, we will also convene a committee of community stakeholders to advise on the plan and monitor its status.”