Tenafly School Board Advances $2M Flood Mitigation Project

In a recent session, the Tenafly School Board grappled with pressing infrastructural issues and the poignant remembrances of lives lost during the September 11 attacks. Topping the priority list was the contentious topic of a vital $2 million flood mitigation project at the Smith School, which experienced exacerbated flooding issues during recent storms, including Hurricane Ida. The board is considering boosting the forthcoming referendum amount by $2 million to facilitate the project, aiming for state approval ahead of the decisive March 12, 2024 vote.

Financial deliberations largely centered on the proposed flood mitigation plan, which has become a matter of urgency in light of more frequent weather-related incidents. A tentative agreement was reached to augment the total referendum cost by $2 million to finance the necessary work, with the possibility of utilizing FEMA aid of around $400,000 as a fallback option. The board exhibited a united front, resolved to tackle the frequent flooding issues plaguing the Smith School, while ensuring ethical financial decisions, including a potential reimbursement of excess funds to the taxpayers.

Discussion on the retention of Bishop Communications for referendum publicity formed a significant portion of the meeting, with the PR firm slated to initiate a comprehensive outreach strategy in November, leveraging a referendum-specific website and a communications committee. The blueprint envisions an efficient future with modernized heating and cooling systems and addresses the recent mold issue resulting from a malfunctioned air conditioner, signaling a proactive stance in dealing with infrastructural challenges.

Board President Michelle Harris led the room in recalling the tragic event of 9/11, and highlighting its deep impact on the community which lost four residents on that day. Superintendent Dr. Michael Ben-David continued in this vein, sharing touching personal memories and invoking a quote from Hemingway, emphasizing the need to nurture future generations to “fight the good fight.”

Dr. Ben-David introduced student representative Ayla who detailed the school’s 9/11 remembrances and a host of forthcoming events and activities. The initiatives, including a mentorship program pairing seniors with freshmen and a spirit week, signify a determined march towards normalcy and the fostering of community spirit post the pandemic slowdown.

A report on educational advancements heralded the full distribution of Chromebooks at the high school and updates to the Genesis platform. Furthermore, the committee supported a middle school student and their Mandarin teacher’s participation in a competition in China, promising to devise a sanctioned list of competitions for future references.

The session engaged with various community concerns, including a substantial focus on the urgent requirement to replace the outdated pump system servicing the boilers at the high school. Aimed for completion by the onset of the 2024 academic year, the project aspires to enhance safety and comfort levels for both students and staff. An accompanying concern was the shortage of bus drivers, exacerbated by the pandemic, setting a platform for detailed discussions in the forthcoming October meeting.

Towards the end, the public comment section witnessed concerns raised over flooding preventive measures, especially at the Smith Elementary School. The board assured a holistic approach to prevent water logging, showcasing a collaborative spirit with the borough to develop comprehensive solutions, while waiting for increased funding through the referendum.

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