‘Delaying the projects will just potentially make things worse’

Hopewell Valley Regional School District proposes $87 million referendum for school improvements


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The six schools in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) may receive a greenlight for facility improvements when Hopewell Valley voters are asked to approve a projected $87.5 million referendum later this year.

The school district plans to put the referendum before voters in September, but the final cost estimate may vary slightly after the completion of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE)’s cost estimate forms and approval, according to a school district presentation on Jan. 22.

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“We expect about $57.7 million to be eligible for state support [which is] about 66 percent of overall costs,” said George Duthie, principal architect on the referendum projects and president for architecture firm Fraytak Veisz Hopkins Duthie, noting the state would pay an overall $23 million.

The district has several steps left in the long process before a referendum vote can take place in September.

The last time a referendum was held in the district was nine years ago in 2015. More than $35 million worth of projects was approved by voters.

Projects districtwide fall into five categories – building integrity, indoor environment improvements/HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), safety and security, space for students, and site improvements.

Duthie said there were many reasons why for the proposed referendum including projects not done in the previous referendum and the current needs identified by the school district.

The referendum allows for larger projects that are too expensive to fund during the district’s normal budget and allows for benefits from the state contributing to the projects, which can only occur with a referendum.

,” Duthie said, adding they want to get students out of the modular buildings at Toll Gate and Bear Tavern, improve services to children with disabilities, and provide a pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten expansion.

HVRSD Business Administrator Robert Colavita explained that in the 2015 referendum the estimate for projects was more than $60 million. The school board at the time decided to cut the costs to $35 million.

The $30 million worth of projects cut from the previous referendum remains and are the basis of the new referendum that will be before Hopewell Valley voters.

The problem now is that those projects don’t cost $30 million anymore.

“They almost doubled in cost,” Colavita said.

Hopewell Valley Central High School (HVCHS)

Under the proposed referendum, estimated project costs for HVCHS are about $10.6 million.

There are planned roof replacements in areas, indoor improvements and HVAC, and site improvements to the stadium complex.

“We still have HVAC to do in particular the 400 Wing (Science Wing). That HVAC equipment is obsolete … and some pieces are failing,” Duthie said.

“We have a plan to do a concession stand/restroom building to make the football stadium and athletic complex barrier free accessible and have better serviceability.”

Timberlane Middle School (TMS)

For TMS, the estimated cost for referendum projects is close to $27 million.

The projects include a roofing replacement and select deteriorated exterior doors, replacing an auxiliary gym and adding air conditioning, HVAC renovations, replacing various HVAC equipment, and replacing the chiller.

“The indoor environmental improvements most of that is to take care of the larger classroom wing in the back and replace that HVAC equipment, which right now is obsolete,” Duthie said.

“We are also going to improve the main entrance into Timberlane.”

There will also be a floor replacement for the auxiliary gym and the implementation of a synthetic turf field.

Bear Tavern Elementary School

Referendum projects at Bear Tavern are estimated close to $25 million.

The school projects include roofing, addressing deteriorated doors and the breezeway storefronts, replacing various HVAC systems, replacing classroom doors for Pods A-D, having a 10-classroom building addition constructed, cafeteria and miscellaneous renovations, adding gender neutral toilet rooms, and renovating the sewer pumping station and staff entrance walkway cover.

“We are going to replace classroom doors in the main classroom pods with security glazing (security glass) and security locks,” Duthie said.

“We are going to construct an addition at Bear Tavern and relocate services and kids in the modular buildings right now into this new addition, including a very robust special services department for the kids with special needs.”

The proposed addition is proposed to be one-story and prepared for a future second floor. According to the presentation, the building would house eight pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classrooms with toilets.

Hopewell Elementary School (HES)

The HES referendum project costs are estimated about $9.6 million.

The projects are expected to address roofing and deteriorated doors, complete DOAS (Dedicated Outdoor Air System) ventilation work, primary HVAC, replace classroom doors in the primary wing, and enlarge two kindergarten toilet rooms to provide ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access.

“This is the completion of the HVAC project that has been started already at Hopewell Elementary School,” Duthie said. “We moved all the old steam boilers and replaced them with hot water boilers. We are going to replace the remain portions of the building to hot water.”

Stony Brook Elementary School

The estimated cost for referendum projects at Stony Brook is about $3.35 million.

The projects planned are set to address roofing and deteriorated doors, replace two cafeteria rooftop units and add a chiller, and correct the drainage issue at the school.

Toll Gate Grammar School

Toll Gate’s projects are estimated about $12.6 million.

Projects include roofing and select deteriorated doors, third flood upgrade to the HVAC and DOAS (Dedicated Outdoor Air System), replace electrical switchgear, demolish modular buildings, build a new six classroom building addition, driveway improvements and additional parking, and pavement restoration.

“We are going to be building an addition with six pre-K classrooms and we are going to expand the parking lot to provide more parking and better access around the site,” Duthie noted.

The proposed 9,500 square foot addition will house six pre-K classrooms with toilets and be 9,500 square feet.

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