Woodbridge referendum approved

Staff Writer

WOODBRIDGE — With the overwhelming approval of a $57.7 million bond referendum, construction of a new elementary school, renovation of a middle school, the implementation of full-day kindergarten and district wide technology/security upgrades will move forward.

“We are extremely grateful that the Woodbridge Township residents supported our plan to provide our children with the best possible facilities,” said Schools Superintendent Robert Zega.

He added that it was thanks to the leadership of the Board of Education, led by Board President Dan Harris, and Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac to commit to such a significant collaboration between town and school government.

The bond referendum received 2,428 ‘Yes’ votes and 793 ‘No’ votes on March 28. There were 60,603 eligible voters, according to Township Clerk John Mitch.

Township and school officials have said the bond referendum would be at no cost to the taxpayer.

McCormac had said the improvements will be funded through PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) programs similar to the way they paid for $26 million in community facilities on school grounds over the last three years.

Zega said the school district will move forward with detailed construction plans, which could take a few months. The construction bid process will then follow.

“Once they are completed, construction can begin,” he said. “Renovations at Oak Tree Road [Elementary] School will start sooner since the scope of work there is significantly less. That building should be completed much sooner.”

The construction of a new Ross Street School No. 11 building will cost $33.4 million. Once it is completed, the current 100-year-old building will be demolished.

A new wing will be constructed at Woodbridge Middle School, which will include a gymnasium, science laboratory, media center and classrooms, and the older space will be renovated.

The cost of these renovations is $20.9 million.

One aspect of the referendum that will impact every person in the township is the implementation of full day kindergarten by fall 2018.

The referendum includes funding — $3.4 million — to lease and renovate St Cecelia’s School in Iselin, which would accommodate the move of students at Kennedy Park Elementary School No. 24 into Oak Tree Road Elementary School No. 29 by January of 2018.

School No. 24 will be used for full-day kindergarten and special programs.

Oak Tree Road School will have rooms for approximately 625 students — 25 classrooms with 25 students in each classroom. The current enrollment at Kennedy Park is 447 students in 19 rooms.

Harris said since the township is leasing the St. Cecelia’s building, work has already begun to prepare for the facility for school and community use.

He said the district will put together a curriculum committee this summer to devise a full-day kindergarten curriculum, which will begin during the 2018-19 school year.

The referendum also includes technology/security upgrades, which will costs $1.6 million.

“The majority of the [technology/security upgrades] will be made over the summer and ready by September,” said Harris.

McCormac has said not only will the township share tax revenue — $44.6 million — from downtown development projects and new warehouse projects with the school district for the new school and improvements, the funds will also pay for any incremental cost for any school children that would come from the future proposed developments in downtown Woodbridge.

Some $12.9 million from state aid funds will also be used to fund the improvements.

The mayor said the bond referendum is part of the process of downtown Woodbridge’s transformation into a significant high-end luxury transit-oriented downtown.

Prism development is nearly ready to start building luxury apartments on the Rug’s & Riffy’s Bar & Grill/ Quick Chek site on Rahway Avenue and three other projects are on the drawing board in the area.