Century-old school buildings will be replaced with 21st-century facilities in Woodbridge


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WOODBRIDGE – Within a two-year span, Woodbridge Township has made, and is making, moves to replace century-old school buildings with 21st-century facilities.

Voters approved an $87 million bond referendum on March 10, which addresses the last three oldest school buildings in the district.

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The unofficial results, which include mail in ballots, are 2,560 “yes” votes and 1,549 “no” votes, according to Woodbridge Township Clerk John Mitch, who added there were 2,701 votes cast of 63,497 registered voters.

Schools Superintendent Robert Zega extended appreciation for the support of the public, members of Board of Education, the Woodbridge Township Council and Mayor John E. McCormac for their courage, vision and cooperation to promote improving the district’s schools.

“With your support, we can now provide 21st-century facilities and instruction for our current students and for generations to come,” he said. “In addition, the safety allocations approved in the referendum will ensure that each and every child in our schools can learn in a safe environment.”

This is the fourth referendum the township has passed since 2000.

“Continued community approval of school projects demonstrates the high priority Woodbridge residents place on our children’s education,” Zega said, adding “the benefit to our community, our residents, our property values and our children is immeasurable.”

The Woodbridge Township School District is currently comprised of three high schools, five middle schools and 17 elementary schools.

The $87 million referendum will replace century-old schools in the Woodbridge Township School District and result in improvements and increased security at a number of schools.

McCormac has said the referendum would be paid for by a warehouse project run by Morris Companies on Rahway Avenue.

Zega said the highlight of the referendum is the replacement of Avenel Street School No. 4/5 with a building on a different location off Rahway Avenue. The school building is the oldest school in the district at more than 100 years old.

He said school officials are looking to move the administration offices to the Avenel Street School building on Avenel Street. Currently, the offices are housed in the School No. 1 building on School Street, which officials said is more than 100 years old and is in bad shape.

Officials are also looking to move non-instructional programs, such as trades, to the Avenel Street School.

“Right now [the trades are] housed at Avenel Middle and Woodbridge High and take up some instructional space,” Zega said, adding the move would free up the property where the administration building is and also free up classroom space.

In addition, Ford Avenue School No. 14, which is 96 years old, will close. Zega said school No. 14 is the district’s “smallest elementary school and requires so much renovation.”

School officials have decided to close the school and move the students to Lafayette Estates School No. 25 on Ford Avenue, which is less than a mile from School No. 14.

McCormac and Zega said they want some sort of recreational, playground obstacle type use for the School No. 14 site, not apartments nor retail. Officials said they will meet with the children who currently attend School No. 14 and the residents in the area for their input on the site.

The referendum also includes a large addition at Matthew Jago School No. 28 in Sewaren; a large addition at Lafayette Estates School; and finalized connections for Lynn Crest School No. 22 in Colonia, Woodbine Elementary School No. 23 in Avenel, Kennedy Park School No. 24 in Iselin and Lafayette Estates.

Zega said the referendum provides each school with safety and security money – new cameras, better cameras, front door entrance improvements and additional doors.

Renovations to the JFK Memorial High School fieldhouse will make the area more accessible in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Zega said every school in the district will see some type of improvement as a result of the referendum.

A referendum in 2017 addressed two of the district’s oldest schools – Ross Street School No. 11, which was 100 years old, and parts of Woodbridge Middle School.

The first phase of Ross Street is completed and Woodbridge Middle School, which underwent extensive renovations, reopened in January.

In 2017, the school district had five buildings that were 100 years old or close to that age. Zega said two of those buildings were addressed in the 2017 referendum and the final three have been addressed in the referendum on March 10.

The $57.7 million referendum in 2017 included the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program and district-wide technology and security upgrades.

Zega said with the approval of the recent referendum, officials will follow a bid process by the end of 2020, with projections of the new School No. 4/5 to open earliest September 2022.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.

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