By ARNAV CHINCHANKAR ‘22
Edison citizens voted to reject the $189 million referendum to expand Edison High School, J.P. Stevens, and four other district schools on December 10, 2019.
The referendum was based on a proposal by SSP Architects, a New Jersey-based architectural group, after extensive research on the district schools. The issue of overcrowding in Edison was first brought to attention when the Board of Education President Jingwei “Jerry” Shi created an Overcrowding Taskforce in January 2018.
Multiple information sessions were held in October and November relating to the proposed expansion project. Ultimately, the voter turnout was 10 percent, with 3,677 voting against and 2,640 voting for.
If passed, construction would have aimed to start this upcoming summer. Edison High School would have seen fifteen new classrooms, six new labs, a new main gym, a music room, and a dance studio. The proposal also planned for a renovation of the auditorium, cafeteria, fitness center, media center, and athletic fields to adjust for capacity. Additions were also planned for J.P. Stevens and four other district schools. The full proposal included a return to full-day kindergarten.
According to the school district, the property tax bill would have increased by $18.67 monthly, based on the assessment of an average township home priced at $179,600.
Dr. Bernard F. Bragen Jr., Edison’s new superintendent of schools, commented that “We are disappointed that the referendum did not pass and we will explore all options as we continue to move forward in addressing the significant issues of overcrowding in our schools.”
The Board of Education is planning their next steps. Alternate solutions include trailers and split sessions, although the superintendent believes the latter is not the solution.
The Board of Education plans to resubmit an improved proposal to reach a public consensus to promptly address the overcrowding issue in schools. According to the superintendent, another proposal or referendum would likely take place in March.