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Rutherford Schools Consider a Sept. 24 Vote to Expand and Improve Schools

Submitted by Rutherford Public Schools

The Rutherford Public Schools Board of Education is considering a bond referendum to meet the pressing needs of higher enrollment and aging facilities. The board may take formal action at its June 3rd meeting to put that question on a Sept. 24 ballot, giving voters a proposal with a significantly reduced Scope of Work compared to the one rejected in 2018.

The pared-down proposal focuses on meeting critical space and maintenance needs without making major changes to non-instructional areas. Most notably, it keeps the high school pool as a community resource rather than building a kitchen and cafeteria in that spot. That cut the Scope of Work and the price tag, and last year’s community feedback was a driving factor in the decision.

“Following last year’s defeated referendum, we learned from the Rutherford community that they support our schools, but most did not support that particular proposal at that cost,” said Superintendent John J. Hurley. “Our take-away from 2018 was that the community recognizes that our schools and classrooms are overcrowded, and appreciates the need to modernize our classrooms and labs.”

Enrollment in Rutherford schools is already up and projected to rise higher, resulting in a gain of about 225 students over a 10-year time frame from 2013 through 2024. In addition to classrooms, that enrollment boom has created the need for more gym, library, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and arts spaces. The district has received year-by-year waivers to a state rule that requires in-classroom restrooms for kindergarten, but has been advised that they need a plan of action. Students in grades 7 and 8 have no science

labs at Union School, and high school students can’t meet current science curriculum standards in labs that are approaching 50 years old.

“A bond referendum is still the best way to address these needs,” Hurley said, noting the state aid that can come from bond borrowing. The state has pledged about $9 million toward the total proposed costs of $45.3 million – funding that would not be available if the projects were completed within the annual operating budget.

The dedicated website has details about the reasoning, the process, and the proposal that the school board will consider. That public meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 3 at the cafeteria of Rutherford High School, 56 Elliott Place.

Hurley will present key points of the proposal at that meeting. If the school board acts to place the referendum on the Sept. 24 ballot, that will kick off an informational campaign with numerous opportunities for voters to learn more. Citizens can follow Twitter @rutherfordps and Facebook @rutherfordpublicschools to get updates.

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