13 Million Dollar Referendum Up for Vote

October, 2023
Hangyeol CheongDaniel Guo

On November 7, voting will close for Princeton constituents on a 13 million-dollar referendum that will include updates to all six PPS schools and specifically renovations for PHS to accommodate its growing population. These plans include expanding the cafeteria, reapplying turf for the football field, and strengthening the wifi network, among other things.

According to the recent presentation given during the monthly BoE meeting in October, the largest budget allocation, 31.5%, will be toward safety and security, building upon the recently increased vigilance of administrators regarding student IDs and lanyards.

“The United States, unfortunately, seems to be the capital for school shootings. We always feel safe here because it's a nice community, but we never know,” said PPS Business Administrator and Board Secretary Matthew Bouldin. “We are trying to be as proactive as possible.”

Updates to the school include preventative measures for a potential active shooter situation, such as vestibules for major entryways and new security cameras all around the school. These will allow building monitors or security guards to vet everyone coming in before they enter the school, similar to the entryway at the Flagpole Entrance right now.

“[The police department] also helped us to design some of the safety features with suggestions for improvements. We're doing window films on all six schools [and] room numbers have gone up on the outside of the windows [for the police] in case of emergency at PHS,” Bouldin said.

Due to its burden on the taxpayer, the proposal for a 130 million dollar referendum in 2018 experienced backlash, and the Princeton Board of Education has instead recently turned to smaller, more frequent referendums. Thus, the other renovations consist primarily of necessary, time-sensitive updates to the schools, but also include solutions for common complaints.

"For maintaining the district … for example, the turf, they do a GMAX test every year, which measures impact attenuation — basically the sponginess of the field. You really can't get much more than 12 years out of a turf field. So for stuff like that, you have an idea when it needs to be redone,” said Bouldin.“We try to get feedback from all the constituents … especially the students and teachers. For example, the students have talked about the network issues for a while, teachers as well … it gets bogged down.”

Comprising 18.2 percent of the total budget across all the schools, planned improvements will multiply the maximum internet coverage by more than ten. The speed of the student and guest networks has been a point of frustration for many years and has consistently caused problems with standardized testing. Additionally, during class transition periods, teachers cannot access the network to prepare for their next class due to an influx of students joining the Wi-Fi network from their phones. With an upgrade to the Wi-Fi capability, students can have more smooth-running classes without hiccups regarding technology, especially if their classrooms are located at the edges of school or in high-traffic areas.

“I remember in years past how teachers, especially in the science wings, couldn’t use canvas during class or load powerpoints to teach. It made class pretty inefficient, but resolving that will be a big win for productivity,” said Henry Xu ’24.

Under the “Major Maintenance” portion of the referendum includes plans to resurface all sports fields and renovations to the cafeteria, which will double the functional capacity of the kitchen and seating area.

“Unless you get there early, there are often hundreds of kids crammed into the two lunch lines with two cashiers frantically trying to move the bulging line. It takes forever, so I think that if passed, it will be one of the most visible changes for students,” said Kyle Zhao ’24.

In general, the majority at PHS see referendums as an opportunity to improve the school and are interested in what issues will be addressed.

“As a football player, I definitely want to see how the new turf changes things. All of the additions to the high school in recent years like the New Wing have been really cool and beneficial to students, so I hope this one passes as well,” said Joseph George ’25.

If successfully passed, the district plans on beginning construction in the summer of 2024. However, the timeline still needs to be determined due to some supply barriers. However, Kendal and Bouldin both support the proposal but recognize the decision comes down to the taxpayer.

“Most of the workload will be done next summer. The technology infrastructure upgrades, assuming we can get the network or equipment. There's still some supply constraints in the marketplace with certain things, and that's one of the things I'm worried about. There's still some pretty long wait times,” Bouldin said. “We're just trying to communicate to the population so they know how important it is. That's basically what we try to do.”