P.G.-C.P. district may present voters with bond referendum
Article published Friday, September 19, 2008
By Heather Simione

PENNS GROVE - More than eight years after its last bond referendum, the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District is considering presenting another question to the public to bring some relief from a growing enrollment rate and to provide a better learning environment for students.

A task force has been created to look into what improvements need to be made and the first of five private planning sessions took place last Monday in the school district administration building.

Although pitching a bond referendum comes at a time when districts around the county are facing criticism from taxpayers on school budgets and referendums they say aren't affordable, it was the last course of unavoidable action, said district officials.

The task force, known as the Community Advisory Committee, is made up of roughly 30 people including local educators, clergy, parents, and government officials. They were appointed to recommend to the board of education a facilities improvement plan.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Massare said more local funding is needed to bring much-needed updates to the schools.

He hopes to see the bond referendum go up for vote in 2009.

"A more demanding curriculum is to a school district as a spinal cord is to a body," said Massare. "We need to pull our children into the 21st century and local funding alone does not allow our children to advance."

Tony Fulginiti, facilitator of the Community Advisory Committee, has been hired by the board of education to guide the members.

He said future meetings will be closed to the public.

"The meetings will be in private," Fulginiti said to the task force. "You will be able to give ideas and not fear they will be reported as fact. You have a serious obligation to represent the community, so proceed with caution. You were invited because you're trusted by the people."

Robert Garrison, of Garrison Architects, was assigned the task of analyzing the district's five school buildings for structural problems. He revealed his findings in a PowerPoint presentation to task force members Monday night.

Although all five school buildings are in desperate need of repair and educational upgrades, the middle school's undersized building with aged plumbing and electrical systems makes it the main focus of the project, according to Garrison.

"You may want to consider tearing it down and building a new school," he said. "It's over capacity by 120 students. You can demolish the building and build new or build an addition."

Other issues included obsolete science labs, old lockers, bathrooms, as well as defunct playground equipment and a lack of air conditioning.

Critical maintenance also includes replacing the heating system in all the schools, roof replacement and improved security at the high school, and additional classroom space at Field Street School.

With Gov. Jon S. Corzine's decision to implement a full-day pre-k to kindergarten program, additional building space will also be sought after for those students.

The district must devise a plan by Nov. 14 that will enable three- and four-year-old full-day programs to take place at Lafayette-Pershing School with no more than 15 students in a classroom assisted by one teacher and one aid.

However, the district has projected 150 future students for each program.

Brian Ferguson, business administrator, said a deflated budget has prompted a request to ask for additional local funds to fix up the schools.

"We can't keep pulling big money from the budget," said Ferguson. "The environment is good for what we want you to do, but selling it is another story."

The next meeting, which includes a tour of the middle school, is scheduled to take place on Sept. 29.

The Community Advisory Committee will come before the board of education on Nov. 3


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