A year ago, Cherry Hill Public Schools appointed Garrison Architects the district’s architect of record. The firm has spent the last year going into every building in the district to evaluate the infrastructure.
At last Tuesday’s Board of Education, Bob Garrison of Garrison Architects revealed the accumulation of his year’s worth of research when he presented the district’s long range facilities plan. He also laid out the district’s potential path toward referendum at the March 23 meeting.
New Jersey school districts are required to update their long range facilities plans every five years. Cherry Hill last updated their plan during the failed 2018 referendum. Becica Associates was the district’s architect of record at the time.
Given this is Garrison’s first time working with the district, their team began by gathering and scanning all the records on work that had previously been done on the district’s 22 buildings. From there, they went on site to tour the district’s facilities and took a comprehensive inventory of the district’s expected and extendable life of their current building systems.
Garrison walked attendees through a list of facilities deficiencies in need of possible upgrades. Some of the site improvements included ADA compliance upgrades, site drainage, paving, signage, playground enhancements, parking lot improvements and new LED monument signs at each school site. At the exterior level, Garrison recommended roof replacements, new insulation, masonry and facade repairs.
Interior deficiencies ran the gamut with Garrison proposing security vestibules, flooring replacement, new classroom cabinetry, classroom white boards, all purpose rooms, locker room reconfigurations and a litany of other interior projects. In terms of building systems, Garrison recommended HVAC upgrades/replacements, electrical construction work and some plumbing construction.
The level 1, or most high priority items for improvement, cumulatively amount to approximately $260 million in proposed upgrades. The largest portion of this cost comes from HVAC upgrades, which are expected to need around $71 million in improvements.
The proposed level 2 potential improvements amount to approximately $55 million with improvements in interior renovations making up the largest portion at $51 million. These improvements include things like interior finishes and lighting.
Finally, the proposed level 3 potential upgrades come in at around $47 million with new construction projects making up the largest portion at $44 million. These potential improvements could include new all purpose rooms, a kitchen addition and classroom wings.
In total, Garrison is proposing approximately $360 million in upgrades. Some of these projects have the potential to get funded at somewhere between 30 and 40 percent as debt service aid from the New Jersey Department of Education.
Before this can happen however, the district needs to submit their long range facilities plan to the NJDOE. From there, the DOE will issue a preliminary cost offer letting the district know which projects they’ve approved funding for. At that point, the board of education would need to approve a special election to put a bond referendum up for a vote.
Board President Laurie Neary asked Garrison how they can bring this information to the public as they look ahead toward a potential bond.
“Given the current environment or in the age of COVID, how would you recommend we engage the community?” Neary said.
Garrison recommended that should the district pursue a bond referendum that it continues whatever means of communication they’re currently utilizing amid COVID to get in touch with their constituency. He said because they can’t hold a presentation in an auditorium for hundreds of people right now, he’d recommend communications at the school level.
Superintendent Joseph Meloche stressed that Garrison’s presentation on Tuesday was not a bond presentation. He said Garrison’s team simply identified the work that needs to be done and gave them an overview of potential projects that could be included in an upcoming bond referendum. At this time, there is no bond.
To view the full presentation, visit https://www.chclc.org/Page/2417.