Cranbury School District to hold referendum for proposed facility projects on Dec. 14

ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF

The Cranbury School District will be asking residents to approve a referendum come December for proposed improvements and additions to the Cranbury School.

The total cost for the projects at the school is expected to be $18.46 million, according to the district.

If approved by voters, the referendum set for Dec. 14, would fund projects renovating the middle school science classrooms, create an academic commons with makerspace areas and construct a newly designed media center, and renovate the schools outdated kitchen and cafeteria with energy efficient appliances.

Additional projects include restructuring the entrance and main office, relocating the nurses’ suite to increase security and eliminate congestion, replacing the middle school lockers, renovating the blacktop behind the school and renovating an existing auditorium to create a center for arts education.

“It has been about 20 years since the district has embarked on large-scale projects like this. We have always maintained our facility and we have addressed a number of improvements, which all have been feasible in our annual budget,” Superintendent Susan Genco said. “Given that the world of education has changed we need to create structures facilities wise that will support the kind of learning that our students will need in their future.”

The school district administration held the first in what will be a series of forums and question-and-answerssessions on the referendum on Sept. 23.

In October, a public tour of the Cranbury School will be conducted on Oct. 13 to view the proposed project areas at 5 p.m., which would be followed by a public in-person forum inside the school cafeteria at 7 p.m.

“Why a referendum? We began this process through strategic planning which began in 2015. At that time, we had more than 60 community members that helped us create the vision for the school as well as a blueprint to move the district forward,” Genco said. “We are now ready for this referendum process.”

The projects that were listed by the district cannot be constructed and completed through the district’s annual operating budget due to the tax levy increases being capped at 2% each year, according to the district.

“One of the great things here with a referendum project is that it is the one time a district does receive additional funds from the state. Currently, Cranbury does not receive a lot of state aid,” said Sherry Tracey, district financial planner from Phoenix Advisors. “With the total costs of the projects being just over $18.46 million the state has deemed that $12.4 million are eligible for state funding.”

During the presentation on Sept. 23, Genco described with slides and photos the current existing facilities that would be improved if the residents voted in favor of the referendum.

Through the referendum, middle school science classrooms would receive an upgrade from outdated lab stations, have more space for seating and for the middle school classroom without lab stations, stations would be constructed.

The school’s media center, located where Cranbury Public Library used to reside, is bare and currently used as dual purpose space for school classroom space and part of the school’s cafeteria.

“But it is definitely in desperate ned of attention to incorporate a variety of multimedia offerings. We are really trying to make this space an academic commons,” Genco added. “Teachers in every subject would be able to use the academic commons for enrichment, their own projects and for independent studies.”

The space would feature flexible makerspace areas.

The school kitchen and cafeteria would also be upgraded. The kitchen space has outdated appliances, while still operational, the administration describes them as inefficient.

“They need to be replaced and completely overhauled. The cafeteria itself the flooring would need to be brought up, the space itself does not provide opportunity for a more student center feel,” Genco said. “The furniture is outdated. We want to create an opportunity to connect the kitchen with the cafeteria.”

Another area targeted for improvement is main office area, which is currently described as multi-purpose space for school. Teachers receive mail, deliveries occur, and confidential meetings take place in the main officer area.

The administration also plans to address the school parking lot capacity and traffic issues. They plan to work to conduct a traffic study and redesign the parking lot.

The combined gym and existing auditorium space, which the presentation described as currently cramped with limited visibility for stage performances, will be another one of the target areas proposed for improvements. The new performance center at this space would seat 500 people.

“If we are to do a complete renovation of the auditorium and create a center for the arts, we also want to provide a state of the art industrial arts classroom. We would like to relocate the industrial arts classroom near the center for arts education,” Genco said.

The administration additionally informed the public that a separate project constructing a new auxiliary gym is also proposed, but would not be funded by the referendum. That project’s funding is set to come from the district capital reserve fund.

The new auxiliary gym would be located adjacent to the school existing gymnasium.