At its latest public meeting, Haddonfield’s board of education received an update on the district’s Long Range Facilities Plan, which explored several modes of expansion to accommodate an expected increase in enrollment as well as increased development of instructional modes, such as STEM education.
During the Oct. 28 session, the presentation was made by former board member Susan Kutner, who spearheaded the effort several years ago while serving on the nine-member body. The main thrust of long-range planning was to bring Haddonfield schools and classroom spaces, constructed with an older educational mindset, up-to-date with 21st-Century learning modes.
“We all understand. We have old buildings. And they’ve been updated and upgraded through the years. Our oldest building was built at the time of Woodrow Wilson. Our most recent, which is the middle school, is Lyndon Johnson,” Kutner explained.
A chief source of concern and consideration within the LRFP, is the pending addition of affordable-housing units on the site of the former Bancroft School next to Haddonfield Memorial High School. A portion of the construction would be made available to families with school-aged children.
The plan would encompass four different grade-alignment options for elementary level students (kindergarten through 5th grade): two would require construction of an additional building, one would alter the alignment between all three elementary schools, and one that will maintain the current alignment.
One option explored in the process was to utilize Cooley Hall on Bancroft’s campus. The 39,000-square-foot edifice has gone unused since the school was relocated. And while smaller than both Tatem and Haddon elementaries, only one wing would need to be used to accommodate the district’s needs.
“It is unpleasant. And it is problematic. Here in Haddonfield, you know that there’s a community preference for neighborhood elementary school,” Kutner acknowledged “But it needs to be weighed program delivery objectives or operational efficiencies, which are a lot in building costs.”
The final step of implementation, Kutner said, was for the town to face a referendum on the upgrades. Kutner noted that the previous referendum, held in 2016, focused on physical-plant issues, while this future endeavor would focus on the demands of an improved educational mindset.
In examining a potential Sept. 2023 vote, the administration would need to act almost immediately to establish concrete priorities and begin school grade-alignment option analyses; to interview and select an architect for the project by the end of the year; to complete the above analyses and finalize the scope of work requested in the referendum by June 2022; to submit the LRPF and project application to the state Department of Education no later than February 2023; and to provide notice to the county board of elections by July 2023.
Kutner pledged her help to the board during any step of the process going forward.
Slides relating to the presentation can be accessed on the board’s website at: https://tinyurl.com/c28y3kd5. A comprehensive overview of LRFP goals and timeline can be found on the district’s website at: https://haddonfieldschools.org/lang-range-facility-planning/.
The board also formally approved, on second reading and public comment, a pair of doctrines under Policy 1648. The first relates to the continuation of in-person education with precautions against the spread of COVID-19. The second relates to the health and safety of all district staff regarding vaccination status.
In other news:
- In a parallel move, the board voted to abolish parts of Policy 1648 which related to the resumption of instruction during the start of the pandemic from the end of the 2019-’20 academic year, including the Restart and Recovery Plan for full-time remote learning, and remote learning option for families.
- Two members of the community were selected to fill the immediate board vacancies created when Kutner and Tom Vecchio announced they would step down: Megan Hollingworth and Greg Esemplare. Hollingworth was to be sworn in prior to this meeting, while Esemplare is expected to be sworn in on Nov. 11.