WOODBRIDGE — Inflation is not only driving up the cost of food and gasoline but also for new schools.

After two years of planning, the Woodbridge Board of Education canceled plans to build a new Avenel Elementary School

Funds for the new school were part of a referendum in 2020 approved by voters just before COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were put in place that slowed construction, Superintendent Joseph Massimino said at Thursday's meeting.

The school's builder, AECOM, told Massimino that the delay and supply shortages have driven up the cost of the new building by at least $15 million, to a total of $50 million.

"They told us the increase in project costs and financing had dramatically changed through the inflationary cycle that has gripped our country and it's exacerbated by supply chain issues obtaining steel, lumber, some of the interior fit out items for construction," Massimino said.

The superintendent said he and the board would not be comfortable with another referendum asking for the additional funds. Instead, the already approved funds will be put towards renovating the existing school without interrupting instruction.

Not the first school renovation

The district has already done a similar renovation at the Lafayette Estates and Matthew Jago schools by adding a gymnasium and cafeteria to each, according to Massimino.

"While it's not the original plan, these circumstances are not circumstances that we chose they are certainly circumstances that we're trying to manage," Massimino said.

The new school would have housed 400 students in grades K-5. The plans included an auditorium, gym, courtyard and playground.

Massimino said the school will eventually be replaced.

"We are still committed to giving the community of Avenel a newer elementary school.

The decision has the backing of Mayor John McCormac, who called it a "prudent decision" by the board.

"We've had referenda where there's a whole wide variety of things for all the schools in town. It would have been difficult to ask for $15 million for just one school," McCormac told New Jersey 101.5.

McCormac said the revised project will come in at about $30 million and return $5 million to the taxpayers.

"I would love to have seen a new school but it's just not practical," the mayor said.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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