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Fair Haven voters approve $15.6M referendum for school upgrades

A $15.6 million construction referendum that proposed improvements to
the Viola L. Sickles School and the Knollwood Public School has been approved by voters in Fair Haven.

The Fair Haven Public Schools Board of Education placed the referendum before voters on Sept. 24.

According to unofficial results posted online by the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office, the referendum passed with a count of 781 “yes” votes to 501 “no” votes. The results are unofficial until they are certified by the county.

Administrators posted a message on the school district’s website and said, “We appreciate Fair Haven voters who continually show support for our schools and our students. Thank you.”

The Sickles school (pre-K-3) and the Knollwood Public School (4-8) will see repairs and upgrades completed following the approval of the referendum.

The budget for work at the Sickles school totals $12 million and is expected to result in the expansion of the kindergarten program from half-day to full-day; create a secure school entrance; increase parking on Willow Street to ensure safety during student drop-off and pick-up; gain six classrooms; and create an additional multi-purpose space.

Superintendent of Schools Sean McNeil previously described the existing Sickles school entrance as unacceptable from a security standpoint. He also said Fair Haven is one of three remaining school districts in Monmouth County that does not offer full-day kindergarten.

The budget for work at Knollwood totals $3.6 million and is expected to add flexible classroom space; update the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the gymnasium; update critical systems such as electrical panels; and fund the installation of high efficiency boilers.

State aid is anticipated to cover $3.77 million of the $15.6 million spending plan, McNeil said.

District administrators said the passage of the construction referendum would mean the owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $808,044 would pay about $429 more in school taxes each year for 20 years.

According to a statement posted on the school district’s website prior to Sept. 24, “Fair Haven voters can put the finishing touches on a plan to be sure the community’s high value on education is reflected in its schools. Voter approval would enable the expansion to full-day kindergarten, an expectation most Monmouth County schools already meet.

“It would provide the space needed to further support 21st century learning with a strong emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) at both schools, and a dedicated World Language classroom where one does not exist at Sickles. It would also significantly improve security and building systems at both schools,” according to the statement.

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