Consulting firm looks to solve eventual influx of students in Princeton Public Schools

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Milone & MacBroom, the educational planning consulting firm, which was hired by Princeton school district officials to help prepare for the future, spent two days last week on the ground in Princeton.

The Connecticut-based planning consultant met with school district officials on Nov. 21 and toured several schools on Nov. 22.

Milone & MacBroom, which was hired by the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education in September, spent the last month conducting a detailed analysis of the school district’s data, Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane said.

The consultant reviewed the school district’s projected enrollment, student growth, bus and transportation issues, and the Cranbury School District’s sending-receiving relationship with the district, Cochrane said.

The Princeton and Cranbury school districts have an arrangement in which Cranbury High School students attend Princeton High School on a tuition basis. The Cranbury School District does not have its own high school.

Milone & MacBroom also reviewed the functional capacity of the six school buildings in advance of its visit. A detailed analysis of the district’s educational programs also is part of the study, Cochrane said.

The consultant is being paid up to $143,605 to prepare a long-range facilities master plan over a six- to seven-month time frame. It also plans to draw up a series of alternative scenarios as part of its Master Plan.

Those scenarios will explore various options for grade and attendance area reconfiguration, as well as possible expansion of the existing buildings to meet current and future needs.

The consultant will hold several public workshops to gather feedback from the community. The workshops will review the study’s objectives and enrollment projections, as well as how the school buildings may be used.

School district officials have been concerned that the district may be faced with an influx of students. It is partly due to the anticipated construction of more than 700 units of low- and moderate-income housing, which is needed to meet the town’s obligation to provide its fair share of affordable housing.

School district officials are not certain how the district can accommodate them, so the school board hired Milone & MacBroom to help tease out possible solutions.

Believing that it may face a projected enrollment of more than 4,500 students by 2027, the school board was planning to build a new grades 5-6 middle school, purchase an office building and 15 acres of land on Thanet Circle for school district offices, renovate Princeton High School and carry out some smaller projects at a total cost of $129 million.

But residents balked at the price tax and the resultant property tax hike that would be needed, so the proposed $129 million bond referendum was scrapped in favor of a smaller, targeted bond referendum.

In place of the $129 million bond referendum, the school board prepared a scaled-down bond referendum of $26.9 million, which gained Princeton voters’ approval in December 2018.

The $26.9 million bond referendum has money to pay for air conditioning in every classroom in the Community Park, Johnson Park, Littlebrook and Riverside elementary schools.

There is money for security improvements in all six schools, four additional classrooms at Princeton High School and upgrades to the library at the Littlebrook School.