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The Woodbridge Board of Education Budget Series: Capital Planning

The Woodbridge Board of Education (WBOE) has begun drafting its budget for the next fiscal year.  We will be writing a series of articles to help town residents better understand the process, what is included in our budget, and the importance of investing in our amazing school.  As always, the WBOE recognizes the support and long-term investment of both the town leadership and residents in Beecher Road School.

This article will provide an overview of the Capital Plan that the WBOE presented to the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen on December 2, 2021 and includes 4 priority projects:  1) roof replacement, 2) remediation of drainage issues, 3) asbestos abatement, floor replacement, and potential building reorganization/repurposing/expansion to address capacity issues, and 4) repairing of cracks in parking lots and sidewalks.  A recording of the WBOE’s presentation can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k07Nq16DqIs

Areas of Beecher’s roof have a history of leaking that has reached a level that now requires a full roof replacement where the roof has reached or exceeded its lifespan.  Excessive leakage, combined with drainage issues, results in significant pooling of water both inside and immediately outside of our building every time it rains, even when there is a light or modest rainstorm.

There is also an urgent need to replace the flooring, which should only be done once the roof and drainage issues have been addressed.  This need results from asbestos which is currently sealed under carpeting.  This asbestos does not pose any current threats to the staff and children at Beecher; however, abatement is a necessity given the severity of the water pooling in and around the same area.  Moreover, this raises concern regarding the long-term impact of damp flooring in terms of mold and air quality.

In addition, Beecher’s sidewalks and parking lots are cracking and crumbling which are a hazard to children, parents, staff, and visitors and have already caused injury.  It is important to note, that our building and grounds are used 7 days a week, all year long to support other town programs, in addition to providing education.  Finally, Beecher must get a comprehensive assessment of what is necessary in terms of reorganizing, repurposing, and/or expanding the current footprint to meet enrollment trends, strains on building capacity, and any potential new housing in Woodbridge.

For context, Beecher Road School was originally built in 1960, with the additions of the South school in 1971, the D wing in the early 1990s, and the K wing, cafeteria, and library between 1995-1997.  Between 2014-2016 there was a comprehensive and sustainable energy renovation that involved a state-of-the-art HVAC system, windows, and additional security.  Beyond these renovations, however, few other upgrades have taken place, while other towns have invested in new and improved school facilities.

We are now at a pivotal moment in our district in which our current building has reached its capacity.  Beecher’s current enrollment requires 55 classrooms:  43 dedicated to grades K- 6 instruction with the remaining necessary for specials (e.g., art, music, etc.), pre-K, and special education services.  Beecher only has 54 classrooms and so this year we were forced to temporarily repurpose the Rotunda into a special education space.  Based on enrollment projections through 2027-2028, and the distribution of enrolled students across grade levels, Beecher will require 42-44 classrooms for grades K-6 instruction every year.  Therefore, our building is at and in some years will be exceeding its capacity.  In addition, future development and zoning changes could potentially further increase student enrollment.

There is wide agreement in Woodbridge that Beecher Road School is one of our town gems, and something that deserves ongoing investment and revitalization.  Beecher is the place where our children learn and grow, and where many of us began our own education.  It is also a place of exceptional academic achievement; this past year, during a time of COVID, our school ranked among the top 3% in the State for the percentage of children meeting or exceeding grade level standards for math and literacy.  This is a true testimony to the dedication and work of our educators, administrators, and staff at Beecher who make it such an amazing place for our children.

While these educators have continued to do wonderful things with our children inside our school building year over year, during this same tenure the building itself has aged dramatically.  While our children score within the top 3% of academic achievement, we can all agree that Beecher is not within the top 3% of school buildings in the State.

In total, the WBOE is requesting the town invest in excess of $2 million over a 6-year period.  As a focal point of our town, and a primary factor in our housing values and tax revenue, we must invest in Beecher Road School.  We would never allow this level of disrepair to be neglected in our own homes, and we should not permit these needs to go neglected in our school either.  As the WBOE, we voted unanimously to seek this investment from the Town of Woodbridge and we hope that the community also recognizes the current needs of Beecher Road School and supports this investment in our much-loved school.

Any residents who are interested in learning more are encouraged to attend town meetings, including WBOE meetings.  All WBOE meeting agendas and minutes are published on the district website.  In addition, if you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to reach out to Superintendent Jonathan Budd at jbudd@woodbridgeps.org.

By Lynn Piascyk, Maria Madonick, Sarah Beth DelPrete, Jay Dahya, Brooke Hopkins, Jeff Hughes, David Ross, Mike Strambler, and Erin Williamson

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