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School Board Member: Probably No Referendum Until September 2014

Richard Seamon

Board of Education member Richard Seamon said it does not look as though the district’s proposed referendum can be held until at least September 2014.

It’s looking as though the school district’s planned $85 million referendum won’t be held until at least September.

Board member Richard Seamon told his colleagues at the Dec. 12 meeting that the district had not yet heard back from the state Department of Education on grant requests that would help offset the project’s largest costs, and there’s no definite date by which it may.

And without that notification, he said, nothing can move forward.

Seamon said there are only a few dates a year on which a school board can hold a referendum: in March, September, November and December. The board had hoped to hold the referendum in March, 2014, but time is quickly running out for that to happen, Seamon said.

The district has been notified that the state will cover about 40 percent of the costs for window and roof and mechanical equipment replacements, he said.

“These projects add up to very little of the referendum,” he said. “We have not received state review letters for the (major) construction projects.”

The proposed $84.9 million referendum project includes about $45 million for a new Pre-Kindergarten to 5th grade school on Claremont Road – designed to hold between 960 and 1,070 students – as well as the expansion of Samson G. Smith and Elizabeth Avenue schools and the renovation all other schools, except for the high school.

The renovations and expansions will result in Samson G. Smith and Franklin Middle schools being grade 6-8 middle schools, and Hillcrest, Pine Grove Manor, Conerly Road, McAfee and Franklin Park and its annex being Pre-Kindergarten to grade 5 schools.

Schools Superintendent Edward Seto has said that the district’s current configuration – Pre-Kindergarten to 4th grade schools, 5th and 6th grade schools, 7th and 8th grade schools and a 9-12 high school — presents problems, especially with the 5th and 6th grades in one school.

Educational approaches and even scheduling are different for the two, he has said, because the 5th grade uses an elementary school approach while the 6th grade uses a middle school approach.

The state has set aside about $500 million in grant money for school projects.

The letters from the state DOE are critical, Seamon said because they’ll be used to create the referendum’s questions.

“The questions must have specific dollar values,” he said. “The amount of the referendum, the amount of state aid and the amount expected from the public.”

Nothing can proceed until the questions can be written, Seamon said.

“Hopefully, when the state does issue the final letters, Franklin will get its fair share of the state money,” he said.

 

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