School Referendums Pass in RFH, Fail in Colts Neck

October 10, 2018
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Some families took their children into the polling station in Colts Neck for the Oct. 2 referendum vote to fund school improvement projects. Photo by Chris Rotolo

By Chris Rotolo |

In the special school district election Oct. 2, Rumson-Fair Haven school district voters gave the green light to a school renovation plan. But in Colts Neck, voters rejected a pair of proposals.

According to the unofficial results posted Wednesday by the county clerk’s office, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional school district voters approved a tax-neutral $12.59 million proposal to upgrade academic and athletic facilities at the Ridge Road high school. In the election, 1,279 voters went to the polls; 836 voted “yes,” and 443 voted “no.”

But in Colts Neck, two referendum questions totaling $34.6 million were denied by voters.

The first one was a $24.8 million plan to provide security, building and grounds improvements at Cedar Drive Middle and Conover Road Elementary Schools, presented as Question No. 1. In the election, 1,513 residents cast votes on this question; 842 voted “no,” and 671 voted “yes.”

The second question was a $9.8 million renovation and expansion of the middle school to develop a state-of-the-art auditorium, renovate the gym and weight room and add external lighting and parking, a plan which did not win broad support. Nearly 65 percent of those who voted came out against the project: 1,503 residents voted on the question, with 971 voting “no” and 532 voting “yes.”

According to the school board, if the referendum had been approved, the district could have received between 30 and 40 percent in debt service aid for eligible projects.

Outside the polling center at St. Mary’s Parish Hall Tuesday, Colts Neck resident Patrick Boag was blunt. “Ten million for an unneeded auditorium? Are they building Carnegie Hall? It’s completely unnecessary.

“We don’t have the enrollment that we once did to support a 600-seat auditorium. And as far as renting it out, that’s not gonna happen to the extent the board would like it to. Even if they did rent it out weekly, you won’t make your money back on it for decades. This is nothing more than a pet project by someone on the PTA,” Boag said.

Voters Approve RBR Referendum

Janine Fredericks-Younger, also voting on Tuesday in the Colts Neck election, said she voted for the referendum. “I think any enhancements to the schools will help our town and will help future generations and property values,” she said. She is the mother of a fourth, ninth and 11th grader in the school system.

Township resident Shawn Houston said he was disappointed the school board linked security upgrades to the reconfiguration of parking lots and driveways. “Security upgrades are important, especially these days, but don’t tie them in with unnecessary projects you know won’t pass on their own,” said Houston when exiting the polling center. “If they would have separated the security upgrades, we would have said ‘yes’ to them, and voted down the auditorium and the rest of it.”

Freehold Regional School District residents also voted down a $39.8 million project for alterations, improvements and renovations at Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro high schools. If approved, Colts Neck High School would have received $4.7 million in funding and tax payers in the district would have been on the hook for $28.7 million.

Following Tuesday’s results, Rumson-Fair Haven High School is due to receive significant facility and technology upgrades after more than 65 percent of the vote went in favor of the $12.59 million proposal.

RFH Academic Facility Upgrades

  • Renovation of third floor learning areas to create two new classrooms, and modernize existing classrooms;
  • Renovation of special education spaces, including a site for students who would benefit from occupational therapy;
  • Construction of a wood shop behind the school’s stage for theatre prop construction.
  • Full redesign and modernization of the library to include access to modern technology and group work spaces;
  • Development of a Community Room to support public meetings and functions;
  • Renovation of science labs to update with modern equipment and ensure ADA compliance;
  • Guidance office reconfiguration for private group meeting spaces and office upgrades.
RFH Students Face the World in New Art Project

RFH Extracurricular Facility Upgrades

  • Turf field upgrades for baseball, softball and field hockey fields, which are currently grass;
  • Construction of a new girls locker room to upgrade an outdated facility and ensure ADA compliance;
  • Auditorium upgrades to include new lighting and stage controls.***

RFH STEM Technology Upgrades

  • Multipurpose technology labs;
  • Specialized learning environments;
  • Easy access to STEM spaces to increase student collaboration.***

“Our science programs definitely need the boost. I’ve been in the school and the classrooms are not that great. A lot of people spend a lot of money to live in this town and schools need to be kept up to date,” Fair Haven resident Michelle Pawlak said of the project, 32 percent of which will be funded by state aid.

“You can’t wait until facilities are so far gone that you have to spend $50 million for upgrades. Things need to be maintained and this is the right time to do it,” Pawlak added.

Many voters were excited that the improvement proposal include a vast array of projects that touched so many aspects of the high school community.

“There’s something for everyone,” Fair Haven resident Kathy Sullivan said. “It’s the library, it’s STEM technology, it’s turf upgrades for athletes, it’s for our special needs population. It’s a very well-rounded and economical plan that people can support for different reasons.”


This article was first published in the Oct. 4 – Oct. 10, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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