When Cherry Hill's record-setting school bond referendum won by a landslide on Thursday, district school officials, members of the board of education and many parents rejoiced that voters backed the need to rehabilitate 19 deeply worn school buildings.
But — like buying a new home or getting a new job — the real work begins after clearing the first hurdle.
"We expect that there are five years of projects to be completed," Superintendent Joseph Meloche told 70and73.com Friday in an interview.
Meloche said he was "incredibly grateful" for community involvement in what was at least a two-year process to educate township taxpayers about the need to spend $363,911,100, which school officials believe is a New Jersey record for a single school bond referendum.
Repayment of the bond and interest is estimated to add $401 to the property tax bill of a Cherry Hill home with the town-wide average assessment of $226,400.
An unofficial vote tally released by Camden County at about 4 p.m. Friday showed that 9,230, or 69%, voted in favor of the bond issue and 4,133, or 31%, voted against spending the money. About 22% of Cherry Hill's voters turned out for the election, with about seven out of 10 ballots cast by mail.
The next step for the district will be to meet with the bond counsel and the project's architectural firm, Garrison Architects of Bellmawr, a company specializing in school construction and renovation.
Meloche explained that as the district is going to market for the bonds, Garrison Architects will be considering the overall scope of the projects — every school will be touched — and how to break them down and begin the bidding process.
Shortly after the first of the year, the district is expected to seek its first bids — for new roofs on the schools. That rather straightforward project would begin next summer, when students are out of school, Meloche said.
No matter what the building project, the goal will be to create as little disruption as possible to the educational environment, Meloche explained. Work that can be done during the summer break or in the hours when schools are not in session will be a goal in the planning, he said.
At the same time, the project planners will need to pay attention to supply-chain delays and the sometimes-long lead times before some building materials and equipment are available.
Multi-purpose rooms in elementary schools will be valued as "swing spaces" and used as temporary classrooms when construction invades the actual classroom. In most of these schools, the plan also is to add a second multi-purpose room.
Meloche said the district's website will be used to keep parents up to date on which jobs are happening when and if disruptions are anticipated.
A key equipment replacement will be all 19 schools' heating and cooling systems, which are outdated and, in many cases, not centralized.
The current systems were installed more than 50 years ago, Meloche noted. In the last 20 years alone, technology has changed dramatically, he added.
More efficient and cheaper to run, the new HVAC systems also will have higher-rated filters and remove smaller particulates, including germs, from the air.