Bond Referendum FAQ

Question: Please confirm that requests for funding for the schools do not include any issue that are a result of Hurricane IDA and those will be settled with Federal funding and not part of this request.

Answer: Yes, that is correct. The funding to resolve the problems created by Hurricane Ida will be reimbursed to the District by FEMA and by our insurance carrier. Those expenses will not be reimbursed by funds raised by the issuance of bonds.

Question: Will you consider trailers if students cannot be in a school building?

Answer: Yes, if needed trailers might be considered as temporary classroom space for students who need to vacate certain areas of a building during construction.  However, use of trailers might not be necessary as we plan to schedule as much work as possible during school vacations, during the summer and after school hours. We do not anticipate major disruption of the student classroom experience during this process. Work in our buildings will be scheduled over a number of years to minimize disruption to the student learning experience.

Question: The federal government recently announced a Clean Air in Buildings Challenge (https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/news-updates/2022/03/23/lets-clear-the-air-on-covid/) that provides guidelines and recommendations around ventilation and other improvements to indoor air quality. Do the improvements planned as part of this bond referendum meet the recommendations laid for schools? 

Answer: Guidelines and recommendations are constantly changing and evolving as more information is available. The "Clean Air in Buildings Challenge" is a new recommendation dated just two to three weeks ago. The HVAC systems that will be designed once the referendum passes will be code compliant or better and follow all industry best practices in place at the time regarding air flow, ventilation rates, filtration rates and fresh air requirements. The HVAC solution and equipment selection for each building and individual room will be based on many different factors including, but not limited to, building configuration, existing infrastructure, equipment efficiency, occupancy, and room type/size.

Question: What is the order of the projects and how will they impact day to day activities in each school? Will any schools need to close?

Answer: The order of the various projects has not yet been determined due to a number of factors and they will not be determined until after the applications are filed with the state Dept of Education and a response to those applications is received from DOE.  We expect that a preliminary determination of to the order to projects will be made during the fall of 2022 as planning for that work will need to begin as soon as the referendum passes in November, 2022.

We are expecting that work to be carefully planned so that no schools will have to close during construction.  In so far as possible, construction work will be performed with a minimal disruption to the learning environment with emphasis given to work being done during school vacations and after students have gone home each day.

Question: 1) Is it possible to include money in the bond to fund a masterplan that which would be able to address the next 20-30 years worth of improvements? (examples are to ensure all buildings have adequate gym and lunch spaces) 2) I understand some projects involve re-roofing, when these are done, is it possible to install photovoltaic on the roof? This may be able to be done at no or limited cost if the schools enter into a Power Purchase agreement. 3) When we are replacing boilers/unit ventilators, can we look at alternatives such as Air Source Heat pumps in classrooms in order to reduce our consumption of natural gas. This could significantly reduce our carbon footprint and limit the size of any new boilers that are required. 4) can we be forward thinking and address future investments only related to infrastructure development or would they also help improve the quality of the pandemics in these projects, for example - can we exceed code minimums for ventilation rates and filtration, also should we add additional electrical capacity/floor outlets to allow for a higher quantity of portable HEPA units.


Answer to Question 1: The money in the bond is for capital expenses over the next 6 to 7 years.  Future improvements will be funded through long range planning, budgeting, and possible through future bonds.

Answer to Question 2: Photovoltaics (PV) are being investigated through the ongoing ESIP Project at different locations throughout the district. Not all buildings are viable options due to solar orientation, shading, roof slope, available structural capacity, interconnection with local utility based on capacity issues, or other reasons. For example, with respect to the Glenfield Middle School, this site was rejected outright for interconnection by the local utility for capacity issues. With respect to the Buzz Aldrin Middle School, this site was rejected due to the local utility requiring the installation of additional devices which make this site economically infeasible. With respect to the Montclair High School, the local utility has directed that a proposed system must be reduced by over a third reducing the total system size and benefit. Montclair Public Schools is continuously working with their professional team to move the ESIP project forward and to get as many photovoltaics installed as feasible and possible.

Answer to Question 3: Air Source Heat Pumps may be a possible solution that we will investigated further once we begin the design and construction document phase. Air Source Heat Pumps, while not requiring a boiler plant, require more real estate on the exterior of the building for either ground mounted or roof mounted equipment. Roof mounted equipment may not be feasible while ground mounted equipment may not be aesthetically pleasing. The HVAC solution and equipment selection for each building and individual room will be based on many different factors including, but not limited to, building configuration, existing infrastructure, equipment efficiency, occupancy, and room type/size.

Answer to Question 4: Electrical Service upgrades are included in the proposed bond referendum to support the addition of Air Conditioning and Technology Upgrades. The HVAC systems that will be designed once the referendum passes will be code compliant or better and follow all industry best practices regarding air flow, ventilation rates, filtration rates and fresh air requirements.

Question: Are the equipments / instrument which can enhance the development pedagogy? For e.g. Would the technology / Steam improvements be specific to the rooms and facilities (shown in images) in which students are engaged or would they also include investments towards experiments equipment. It may help us too to also review if these investments could also include latter (in all fields and not just technology). Would love for our children to be exposed to things like 3D printers, telescopes, metal design, foundary, etc. as an example.

Answer: Equipment and furniture that enhances pedagogy is included in the bond proposal.  Technology Upgrades at all buildings include new Interactive Smartboard Displays. Maker Spaces and STEM Lab Upgrades may include new technology such as 3D Printers and laser cutters depending on the grade level and curriculum. Science Classroom Upgrades and Practical Arts Facility Upgrades will also include new equipment and tools to enhance the educational experience and support the classroom of the 21st century.

Question: Not a question but a statement about EQUITY in the use of our athletic facilities. I am not sure if upgrading the field next to Hillside is necessary or not, but if this work is done-- please make a commitment to letting the field be open for use by Hillside students not only during school (for recess and PE) but also after school (including use by the YMCA). I base this on my experience both at Hillside and at Watchung school. At Watchung, the field (during spring and fall) and the gym (during the winter) were frequently committed to outside organizations. My son attended the YMCA after-school program (staying until 6 because I had to work!) and those kids were forced to play ball in the hallway while kids in more expensive soccer programs (etc.) were using the field until they were picked up by their parents or babysitters. Even the YMCA staff was frustrated (though polite) when the principal gave away all the space. When my other child was at Hillside, the kids played four square on a tiny patch of pavement and used the field sometimes. But Montclair United Soccer took it over as soon as "the season" started. Once again--my kid was in aftercare. I am concerned if we have a fancy new field there, it will be used by soccer-football-lacrosse programs and not actually accessible to our kids. This is an equity issue and I just want to call attention to it.

Answer: Thank you for your comment. The Administration will be reviewing the opportunities for children who attend the afterschool program at the Y to use school fields during after school program time. We follow our district policy with respect to field usage. 

Question: How do you determine the number of adults and children who can be in an enclosed area in order to provide supplementary aids and services such as speech, OT, reading, etc. to students satisfactorily?

Answer: This is based on the square footage of the room. 

Question: We currently have accessible ramps – will we still?

Answer: Yes – there are no plans to change or eliminate any accessible ramps.  In fact, in one school, (Watchung) the plans call for an elevator to be installed to allow accessibility to the second floor which is not fully accessible now.

Question: Are you planning to create small spaces for speech and reading sessions?

Answer: There are plans to create some additional small spaces.

Question: What kinds of upgrades are you planning for Special Education?

Answer: The specific upgrades for Special Education are listed on the Montclair Public School website.

Question: Can we work with the town to have a fund to buy properties when they become available for new, future facilities?

Answer: Yes, absolutely we can, but there are no plans for property acquisition in this bond proposal.

Question: Can there be money set aside for a plan for historical preservation of our building facades?

Answer: There is no money currently set aside for historical preservation in this proposal.

Question: What will potential instruction disruptions look like? Will we have to close schools? Will there be remote learning? Will there be a Crisis Plan in place before a disruption?

Answer: See Question 4 above

Question: What is the plan to keep kids safe during construction?

Answer: All school children will be safe during construction. The plan is that much of the work will be done when children are not in the building. If work needs to be done during school hours, the Construction Manager will ensure that it is done safely.

Question: What is the likelihood that there will be negotiations among the Board and that the proposed number would change?

 Answer: There is some chance that the overall number will change based on allowances from the NJ DOE. The bond proposal passed the BOE with unanimous support on April 6, 2022.

Question: Reimbursement from the state: Can we get a good estimate based on other school districts? How does the reimbursement work?

Answer: The NJ DOE looks at each project separately so experience from other districts will not be predictive of how they will react to our proposal.  The state will respond to our proposal before the voters are asked to decide on the bond.

Question: Construction management: Would that be bid out? Who will do it? Will they get a percentage?

 Answer: If an outside construction management firm will be chosen, it will be bid out separately. Alternatively, a staff person with appropriate experience will be hired to oversee construction. The Committee has not yest considered which is the best way to proceed on that question.

Question: Who is the Bond Council? Did we bid out that work? What is the process and why did we select that Bond Council?

Answer: The Bond Council is Andrea Kahn of McManimon, Scotland & Baumann.  She bid for the position and the bid was awarded to her after the Board compared her rates to others.

Question: Have we focused on any green or renewable energy?

Answer:  For the past (2) years, Montclair Public Schools has been participating in a District Wide Energy Saving Plan. Energy Conservation Measures include but are not limited to LED Lighting Upgrades, Installation of De-Statification Fans, Piping Insulation, Steam Trap Replacement, Building Management Control Systems. Building Envelope Improvements, Permanent Electrical Load Reduction, and Water Conservation Measures.

Moving forward, we plan to continue making energy conservation improvements and upgrades. These plans include replacing obsolete, non-operable, and non-efficient boilers and HVAC equipment with new high efficiency equipment to reduce utility costs and usage; replacing roofs that have exceed their useful life with new roofs with higher insulation values that improve the building envelope further aiding in the HVAC efficiency while reducing heating loss.

The energy conservation planning elements of sustainable design are further enhanced by our strategic partners, who have extensive experience in energy efficiency and environmental design. LEED™ and energy conservation planning are being incorporated into a variety of projects every day. Parette Somjen Architects recently received an award from Somerset County for an office building which earned a LEED™ Silver Certificate and was profiled by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Question: What assumptions or expectation is the district using regarding enrollment trends to ensure that our facilities are the right size to meet student demand?

Answer: We have examined enrollment trends and we believe that we are right sized for our enrollment. However, the last two years have been so unusual because of the pandemic, it is very hard to ensure that our estimates are correct.  We will be examining next year’s enrollment numbers carefully

Question: In addition to repairing and improving existing facilities, is the district considering plans for replacing existing buildings or building new ones and if not, why not?

Answer: We have not at this time spent a lot of time considered replacing existing buildings for two reasons:

  1. The timeline for doing so would be much lengthier.
  2. The state program for reimbursing our costs applies differently to new construction and the reimbursement is at a much lower rate – thereby increasing the cost on the taxpayers. 

Question: How will the district use this opportunity to ensure that we do not find ourselves in this situation again with an enormous backlog of critical and necessary projects? What measures and processes will ensure maintenance and other capital needs are addressed in an annual, ongoing and sustainable basis?

Answer: The Committee has been focused on this as well and it we believe that once tremendously outdated infrastructure is replaced the maintenance tasks will become a lot more manageable on an ongoing basis.

Question: What are the guiding principles and assumptions that are being made for these renovations? What is the long-term vision? What is inspiring this work?

Answer: The guiding principles for this work are first to improve the safety for all of our children; second, to guarantee each student with an attractive learning environment equipped for successful 21st century learning; and third, to ensure equity around the district.

Question: Are plans for the renovations among buildings going to be equitable?

Answer: Yes, the buildings that have been most neglected in the past are receiving a larger share of the funding.  Projects were reviewed by need and not to balance out spending between various buildings.

Question: What specialized heating and ventilation systems are needed per room/space to accommodate the number of adults and children in those areas? Have those systems been installed and meet Covid safety recommendations?

Answer: See the answer to question #3 above.

Question: Can you please clarify the thinking behind the scoping of the project? Did you consider focusing on structural improvements and upgrades first and allow more time for the community to workshop our collective expectations for the physical environments where our children spend most of their days?

Answer: Yes we thought about staging the bond request in that way – doing the structural items first and the educational environments second. Ultimately, we decided against that approach for a couple of reason after talking to many partners. The reasons were as follows:

  1. There was no guarantee how long the state matching funds (probably covering about a third of our costs) would last.
  2. Interest rates were climbing increasing the cost of borrowing
  3. It was considered unlikely that voters would agree to multiple large bond issues within a year or two especially considering that many of the structural items would not be easily seen by the public

Question: Will members of the public also be able to voice their views and wishes for the projects? How much flexibility is there after projects are submitted for state approval? Or how final are specifications? 

Answer: There was actually no change in the Special Education Projects between March 28 and April 6 when the specific project documents were released.  The difference between the two numbers occurred because of a mischaracterization of a project when preparing the presentation for March 28.  One project in the high school was improperly grouped into the Special Education line item on the video presentation on March 28.

Question: Why were special ed projects decreased by $700,000 between Mar 28 and the release of the specific project documents?

Answer: There was actually no change in the Special Education Projects between March 28 and April 6 when the specific project documents were released.  The difference between the two numbers occurred because of a mischaracterization of a project when preparing the presentation for March 28.  One project in the high school was improperly grouped into the Special Education line item on the video presentation on March 28.

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