• Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the March 2013 Referendum Vote
  • School Vote March 12
    Livingston voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 to decide new school construction.
    If approved, LPS would create 14 new classrooms to offer more flexibility to ease soft borders, decrease class size, provide space for additional special education programs, and make room for new students predicted to move into our town.
    In addition, the construction would include three new media centers and ADA improvements at the high school.

    What are the costs?
    If approved, Livingston Public Schools would be allowed to borrow up to $18.2 million. The interest and principal payment of the bond would be placed in future operating budgets under debt service. The total cost of the elementary school construction is not to exceed $15.1 million. Another $3.1 million is earmarked to bring older portions of Livingston High School into ADA compliance.
    What is the tax impact?
    For the average Livingston household, (in a home assessed at $600,000), the tax impact would be $87 a year – or looking at it in smaller pieces, $7.25 a month, and in pennies, 24 cents a day.
    When would construction start?
    Construction would begin in early 2014. The work at the older portion of Livingston High School to bring it up to ADA compliance would take place over two summers, 2014 and 2015. The work at the elementary schools is expected to be competed by mid-2015.
    media center Why media centers?
    New additions for media centers at Riker Hill, Harrison and Collins elementary schools will complete Livingston Public School’s goal to provide the space needed to better equip all students with the technology and resources that help them learn to think, learn how to search, and learn to evaluate. The school’s old media centers will be converted to classroom space. Media centers have already been updated at the other elementary schools.(Find information about the District's technology plan by clicking here).
    How would construction impact the school day?
    The proposed construction would have little or no impact at the schools. Because these are additions, students will not have to change  classrooms and will not need to attend school in learning cottages. The ADA renovations at LHS will take place over two summers, with the majority of construction happening while students are not at school. There may be a need to take minor inconvenience where one or two bathrooms are closed during the school year.
    Why the rush?
    For the past year, the Board of Education has been examining the District's long-term facilities plan and needs for the next twenty-five years.  The work included an analysis of facilities space and enrollment as part of the Strategic Plan. (Presentations are posted at right).
    After the careful analysis, the Board of Education concluded a need to add elementary classroom space to meet the goals of the District’s Strategic Plan. This includes additional classrooms to decrease class sizes, lessen soft borders, and create space for special education programs. At the same time, three media centers that date to the 1950s/60s would be replaced as additions to Riker Hill, Collins and Harrison. The media centers in those buildings would be converted to classroom space. Altogether, the total number of new classrooms would be 14, with an option at Hillside to further expand in the future.
    In addition, the Board of Education decided to expand the scope of the work to include the ADA compliance issues at Livingston High School to make all schools 100% ADA compliant.
    On January 23, the Board of Education voted 5-0 to bring the referendum to the voters of Livingston Township.
    When is the election?
    Library Polls will be open from 1 to 9 p.m. for the School Vote on March 12. Voters will cast ballots at their regular polling place. Schools will be open for the day with Livingston Police posted at each site to provide enhanced security.
    Is 14 classrooms enough?
    The Board of Education and District administration have concluded an immediate need for the new classrooms within three years. (If approved, we anticipate the work to be completed by September 2015).
    In Grades K-2, 34 percent – 1/3 – of all classrooms right now are at or above guidelines set by the state of New Jersey. In addition, rooms dedicated for art and music serve a variety of shared uses with world language to small-group English as a Second Language instruction.
    The District believes 14 classrooms is the correct number for a variety of reasons:
    •    While new students are projected from housing developments proposed in Livingston, the birth rate at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in declining. The ages of students new to Livingston will be spread out among all grade levels. There is ample space for new students in the middle schools and high school.

    •    The District intends to educate more students with special needs in Livingston Public Schools. However, those newly created programs will be introduced as need, space and resources for all related services, including teaching staff, allows.

    We just finished construction at the elementary schools. Why wasn’t this work done then?
    Media Center The last round of construction in 2009/2010, renovated all interior classrooms of eight existing schools. This proposal is about new construction for capacity issues. The construction would not start until 2014 and would not impact the daily operation of the schools.
    In 2009, the United States was going through the worse of its economic times and the federal government earmarked some stimulus funds for school improvements. The funds being offered had restrictions; they could only be used for energy improvements and/or air quality improvements within the classroom.  LPS received 40 cents on a dollar in state funding so the scope of the project stayed within the energy improvement guidelines. Solar panels and roof were added to eight schools, as was  air conditioning and other temperature controls units.

    We could not have built new classrooms under that grant at that time. The state funding assistance could not be used for any other school improvements/construction. Therefore addressing capacity issues was not an option..

    Why wasn’t the ADA work part of the LHS referendum?
    The ADA renovations included in this referendum are for older portion of Livingston High School, areas untouched by the construction and renovation completed at the high school.
    The 2005 referendum was prioritized to increase the capacity of LHS, not renovate or provide ADA compliance in all parts of the building.
    Are all our other schools ADA compliant?

    School Vote March 12 How many students attend Livingston Public Schools currently?  How many students will the new schools accommodate?
Currently, 5,812 students attend Livingston Public Schools. The elementary enrollment is expected to increase over the next five to seven years as result of four new housing developments and the addition of special education programs. We anticipate up to 250 students from the new housing developments. In addition, we are seeing more families moving into Livingston when their children are about to enter Kindergarten.
    As we register students for Kindergarten, we are no longer able to assure families that their children will attend the same school as other children on their street. Because of the use of a soft border policy of the LBOE, we assign new students to schools where there are seats. We anticipate that the addition of the new classroom space will lessen our reliance on soft borders and allow more children to attend the school closest to their home.
    What are these new housing developments?
    The proposed projects are a mix of affordable and market-rate housing developments:
    •    Hillside-Northfield, total of 80 multi-family units at the former DuBrow Nursery site, currently under litigation with the Township of Livingston.
    •    Squiretown Properties, total of 220 multi-family units at Eisenhower Parkway and Old Road, currently under litigation with the Township of Livingston.
    •    TMB Partners, total of 62 multi-family units on South Orange Avenue and White Oak Ridge Road at the former site of Don’s Restaurant and Tutor Time daycare center, currently under litigation with residents of neighboring Millburn Township.
    •    Kushner Academy, total of 226 units behind the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy on Eisenhower Parkway. Development is expected to begin in near future.
    Based on our experience with other recent housing developments in the township, the four properties are expected to bring somewhere between 150 to 250 new students to the District.
    How do you know the developments in litigation will be built?
    The pending litigation is about reducing  density and eliminating or reducing below-market housing. Even if the litigation is successful to reduce density, the projects will still be developed.
    Why aren’t the developers paying for the new classrooms?
    Developers cannot be impeded by impact fees in the state of New Jersey.

    What is the plan for Special Education?

    Classroom We have been serving students with learning disabilities in Livingston Public Schools for many years, but our goal is to further expand the number of who attend school in our own community.

    New Jersey is ranked as last and the  50th state in the nation for sending the most students out-of-district for special education placement. And Livingston is at the high end even for New Jersey. LPS currently  sends approximately 130 students to private and public settings for special education placements. Millburn, with the same similar enrollment for instance, sends out just 50  In fact, we send some of the LPS students to Millburn for special education.
    We've made some inroads in bringing special education students back to our District, but not as many as we would like because of space constraints.  But the Board of Education and District administrators strongly believe that our staff, with our children, in our schools is a much stronger educational model then sending students out-of-district.
    New programs already created serve children on the autism spectrum in Pre-K and provide social/emotional support services for preteens. The District’s Strategic Plan calls for increasing the number and scope of the in-district programs special education

    With additional space, the District would continue to create new special education programs and try to retain newly identified special education students. We also hope that current children and their parents placed out-of-district will view that these new programs are as good, if not better, than their current placement and an attractive alternative to reducing long bus rides to their out-of-district school. No current out-of-district child will be forced into a LPS program.

    Is there a cost savings for educating more special education students in-district?

    While special education costs continue to raise, the real savings for educating more special ed students in Livingston Public School will be realized in large savings from out-of-district transportation costs and small savings in tuition charges for out-of-district placements – anticipated as much as $750,000 a year.

    Tuition now paid out will instead be invested in LPS’s own special education programs, including staffing, equipment, and other special considerations.

    art room LPS currently has used regular classrooms for art and music instruction.  What’s so bad about freeing up the art and music classrooms for new students and putting those classes on a cart?

    During the worse times, we have no other choice but to put elementary art or music on a cart to capture a classroom. The teacher literally gets an AV cart that you used to put an overhead projector on, and they stack a bunch of stuff, and they roll from classroom to classroom.

    What it means is that you’re limited by what a cart can hold. Your teacher is a nomad rolling from room to room to room.

    What is best in elementary education is to have dedicated art rooms, music rooms, where children come for instruction. In music, instruments, drums and guitars, are around the wall. The teacher has full access to sound equipment, to pianos, to autoharps. The same thing in art. When you see any public education art room, it’s stacked to the ceiling with supplies. We might do charcoal today. We might do 3-dimensional clay tomorrow. We might use a kiln. Art on a cart is mostly paper and pencil.

    So do we limit children’s choices by crowding schools and taking our specials out of their rooms so they can be used for classrooms? Yes, it really does hurt elementary education.
    Does this referendum include installation of any new air conditioning units to gymnasiums in any schools that was part of the proposal last year? What is the status of that proposal, deferred or cancelled? If deferred, what is the future date that the referendum for that might come back again?
    Gym class In its 25-year analysis, the board identified elementary and middle school HVAC in gymnasiums as another area for improvement. Future plans call for HVAC improvements at all middle school and elementary school gyms from funding that’s to come out of the capital improvement budget. It is anticipated that upgrades at each gym will cost about $750,000 per gym with the work spread throughout the schools over a series of year.

    Riker Hill and Mt. Pleasant Elementary were identified as needing an additional gymnasiums to provide equity of resources across all six elementary schools.  Those two gymnasiums are anticipated to cost about $6.5 million. There are no plans at this time for that work.

    If this referendum is approved, what are future construction projects we expect to have from now to the year 2037?
    • Monmouth Court/Alternative High School Modifications • Shared solution with Township, project under way. Cost to LPS is $2 million.
    • Elementary School Classrooms
 • Referendum under consideration. Cost $15.1 million.
    • LHS ADA compliance 
• Referendum under consideration. Cost $3.1 million.
    • HVAC for all Middle School/Elementary School Gyms • Future Capital Improvement Budgets. Cost anticipated at $750,000 per gym.
    • Central Office Energy and ADA compliance • $1.5 million included in 2013 and 2014 Capital Improvement Budgets.
    • Elementary School Gym Equity, Riker Hill and Mt. Pleasant. Future Capital Improvement Budgets; cost anticipated about $6.5 million.
    We did a number of upgrades and construction to many if not all of the elementary schools within the last 5-10 years. Will the schools have to be revamped again in a few years? And if there are still needed changes, why not do it all now?

    The proposed capacity construction is much different than the renovation construction at the elementary schools during the summer of 2010 and into the start of school that fall. The state funded 40 cents of every dollar spent, but the money could only be used solar panels, new roofs, adding air conditioning and other temperature controls. We could not have built new classrooms with the funding available at that time.

    Fourteen years ago, the voters approved a referendum that added capacity at the elementary schools. At the time, LPS schools were overcrowded. Music and computer classes were held on carts; small group instruction was held in unauthorized areas, sometimes in the hallway; classes were housed in trailers. Based on demographic studies at that time, we built what was needed to relieve an immediate crisis.

    In November 2011, the Board of Education began a yearlong process to examine the District’s long-term facility needs. The LPS Facility Assessment 2012-2037 identifies emergent needs for elementary capacity and 100 percent ADA compliance.

    In its 25-year analysis, the board identified elementary gymnasiums as another area for improvement. Future plans call for HVAC improvements at all middle school and elementary school gyms from funding that’s to come out of the capital improvement budget. It is anticipated that upgrades at each gym will cost about $750,000 per gym with the work spread throughout the schools over a series of year. Improvements to construct new gyms at Riker Hill and Mt. Pleasant Elementary are anticipated to cost about $6.5 million. There are no plans at this time for that work.

    There is adequate space at the middle schools and high school. The Board of Education determined that 14 additional classrooms in the elementary schools will serve the immediate needs to lessen class size and allow more special education students to attend Livingston Public Schools, rather than out-of-district placements. The architect’s plan approved by the Board would allow additional classroom space at Hillside Elementary School. The addition is designed for a future second floor.

    Other than the gym equity identified need, all of the remaining projects seen in the next 25 years can be handled in the yearly capital improvement projects.  The unknown factor for future referendums is the birth rate which can’t be predicted beyond five years. 
Last Modified on July 9, 2013