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New Jersey Department of Education approves $189.5 million school facilities project in Edison for referendum

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EDISON – The message was loud and clear: although the urgent need is to address overcrowding needs in the Edison School District, hold the golden toilets and magazine spread in “Architectural Digest.”

That was the charge the Edison Board of Education gave Jeanne Perantoni, principal and CEO of SSP Architects, Bridgewater, and Heather Wilkerson, project manager for SSP Architects, as they worked on crafting a cost-effective referendum proposal for the much needed renovations, improvements and additions to six schools – John P. Stevens High School, Edison High School, John Adams Middle School, James Madison Intermediate School, John Marshall Elementary School and Lincoln Elementary School – in the Edison Public School District to address the current overcrowded needs in the district.

The board hired SSP Architects to prepare a long-range facilities plan in November 2018 at a cost of $75,000.

Perantoni and Wilkerson presented a $189.5 million bond referendum package to send to the state Department of Education for review. The hard construction costs total $42.9 million at J.P. Stevens, $29.9 million at Edison High School, $10.1 million at James Madison, $9.3 million at John Adams, $9.2 million at Lincoln and $3.99 million at John Marshall.

The hard costs are without soft costs including construction contingency fees, legal fees, bonding surveys, environmental and soil consultations, and printing materials. Perantoni and Wilkerson explained that the soft costs can all be negotiated.

Perantoni said the board had a tough decision since the proposed facilities project is building for past deficiencies.

“With high class sizes you already have, plus students coming in the middle schools and high schools, [they] exacerbate the problem,” she said. “[The facilities project is] long overdue.”

School Business Administrator Dan Michaud announced that the board just received approval from the New Jersey Department of Education on the facilities project after the state reviewed whether or not Edison has the demographic/capacity needs, the submitted plan is reasonable, and the $189.5 million is an appropriate cost to implement the plan for a referendum ballot.

He reported that a resolution for a referendum on Sept. 24 or Dec. 10 may be on the next board meeting agenda on July 29.

Perantoni has said September is the most optimal date for a referendum in order for the district to use the next three summers for construction. She also stated that if a September referendum date is not feasible, the next optimal date would be in December.

“We want what is most friendly, most beneficial to get the most accelerated work done at the schools,” she said.

Perantoni said with the referendum resolution, the board has the option to go forward with all six schools or depackage the project and go with high priority schools.

At J.P. Stevens, the proposal includes a net gain of 33 instructional classrooms, six new science labs, three physical education stations, a relocated, expanded media center, expanded parking lot, and new turf fields for softball, lacrosse and soccer.

At Edison High School, the proposal includes renovations to the auditorium, reconfiguration of offices for administration, child study teams and a career and readiness wing, and media center.

At John Adams Middle School, the proposal includes eight new classrooms, two science labs, a music orchestra room, an auxiliary gym, a new administration wing, and some expanded parking.

At James Madison Intermediate, the proposal includes nine new classrooms, two music rooms, two small group instruction classrooms, a multipurpose gym with stage, kitchen and offices.

At John Marshall, the proposal includes six general classrooms, one special education classroom, one small group instruction classroom, guidance office, child study team officers, conference room, expanded principal’s office, support spaces, a security station at ungraded entry and a secured entrance vestibule.

At Lincoln Elementary, which Perantoni said is “supremely over capacity,” the proposal includes renovations and improvements for support spaces, a secure vestibule, eight classrooms, one classroom conversion, one small group instruction classroom, one multipurpose gym and stage, and a net gain of 30 to 40 parking spaces with circulation improvements.

Along with the referendum, Perantoni said during the same time period they are recommending the board take advantage of an energy savings bond through the state governed by the Bureau of Pubic Utilities. She said the energy savings bond would benefit all the schools and does not have to be approved through the referendum.

The Edison School District has two high schools, four middle schools, nine elementary schools, one intermediate school, one primary school, and the operation of a preschool program.

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