Pequannock BOE to Voters: $3.4mil for Gym, Yay or Nay?

Stephen J. Gerace School, Pequannock
By Christopher Lotito

At a recent meeting of the Pequannock Township Board of Education, plans were presented for the addition of a gymnasium to be added on to the Stephen J. Gerace elementary school, noting that the $3.4mil funding for the project would be secured via a ballot question to voters at the April 16th school board election.  Currently, the school has an all-purpose room which is used for meals, assemblies, and gym classes, but no dedicated gymnasium.

The project would include a gym with bathroom areas and the addition of a new entrance with dedicated kindergarten drop-off.  The project would also include relocation of the existing outdoor play equipment.  Additional parking will complement the new entrance and drop-off.

Construction costs are currently estimated at $3,400,000.00 for the approximately 5,600 sqft gymnasium (plus 1,154 in lobby, bathrooms, and storage).  The project would extend the Stephen J. Gerace School's facilities across what is currently basketball courts on the North end of the school and out towards Ackerson Ave, along the Boulevard.

Among other benefits, the Board of Education has expressed that the new gymnasium will reduce the need for students to eat lunch in their classrooms and address scheduling concerns related to the school's current all-purpose room.

Facing a drop in enrollment of 200 students, as projected by the 11/2011 Whitehall study, the Pequannock Board of Education has worked to address those changes in demographics.  As estimated, the school age population would dip by 200 students over the next 4 years, through 2017.  (http://www.pequannocknews.com/2012/04/pequannock-debates-closing-elementary.html)

Responding to those projections, the Board of Education has previously examined the possibility of closing school facilities and has enacted both full day kindergarten and a school choice / voucher (which will at first allow 20 students from other districts to attend Pequannock schools).

Voters will consider the question of whether a gymnasium should be constructed at the Stephen J. Gerace school, along with the accompanying $45.00 tax increase per household, at the April 16, 2013 election.

In a February 21st article published by the Suburban Trends, Superintendent Victor Hayek noted that the Whitehall demographic report had "painted a picture of panic and a dire need for change," but that in reality, the reduction in enrollment would be gradual, spread across 5 schools, and did not indicate a drop so drastic as to require the closing of any school facility.

Christopher Lotito has served on the Pequannock Historic District, Open Space, and Flood Control Advisory Commissions as well as the author of  "Torrent," a book about flooding in the region.  Lotito's personal mission is to reduce new taxes, drastically reduce flooding, and preserve more green spaces for our children.  Christopher Lotito Profile

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