Citizens to Vote on $189 Million School Expansion Plan

Citizens+to+Vote+on+%24189+Million+School+Expansion+Plan

By ARNAV CHINCHANKAR ’22

Edison citizens are set to vote on a bond referendum on December 10, 2019 to fund the expansion and renovation of Edison High, J.P. Stevens, and four other district schools. This expansion plan aims to solve the overcrowding crisis in Edison, following Board President Jingwei “Jerry” Shi’s creation of an Overcrowding Taskforce in January 2018. It also hopes to reintroduce full-day kindergarten to the district.

According to Elizabeth Conway, a Board of Education member, “[The district is] almost at 17,000 students and the schools just can’t fit them anymore.”

SSP Architects, a New-Jersey based architectural group, proposed the original plan after an extensive period of research on the schools. Jeanne Perantoni, the CEO of SSP Architects, said, “The facilities are meant to serve education” and “[their] mission is that the educational opportunities, the programs, the events, the community use- has to happen and follow what the district wants them to do.”

A video from the Board of Education about the overcrowding crisis in schools and the need for a referendum.

The plan as of now totals $189 million: $31 million covered by the state debt service aid and $158.5 million covered by the district share. According to A Brighter Edison, the estimated average tax increase is $18.67 per month (based on the average tax assessed value of an Edison home at $179,600).

If approved, the expansion plan will begin the expansion of the district’s two high schools, along with James Madison Intermediate School, John Adams Middle School, John Marshall Elementary School, and Lincoln Elementary School.

The plan aims to make some notable changes to Edison High School, adding 15 classrooms, 6 state of the art labs, a new main gym, a music room, and a dance studio. It also hopes to renovate the auditorium and cafeteria by increasing seating capacity. Updating the fitness center, media center, and the athletic fields are also incorporated into the plan.

The planned construction and renovation of Edison High School, as seen from the top.
Photo Credit: abrighteredison.com

The Board of Education’s expansion plan is a contentious issue. Students like Sahil Desai ‘22 say that “the school needs more classrooms to fit the growing student body.” On the other hand, many like Aditya Modi ‘22 believe the plan is “a waste of money.” He added, “taxpayer money should be spent on sensible things like air conditioning.”

The expansion and renovation plan seeks approval in a bond referendum next month. If it fails to pass the vote, SSP Architects and the Board of Education will have to create another plan for the overcrowding crisis in the school district. The Board of Education would have to resort to solutions like split schedules and redistricting. If passed, the expansion hopes to break ground as early as this upcoming summer. The full expansion targets completion within 3 years.