Summit Residents Urge School Board to Set Specific Priorities for $22.6 Million Capital Plan and Target High School Due to Projections of Large Enrollment Increases
Friday, March 22, 2013 • 7:46am
SUMMIT, NJ - A number of city residents who spoke at Thursday’s board of education meeting urged the members of the school body to set a specific list of priorities in the school district’s proposed $22,600,000 five-year capital improvement program.
Among the top priorities also, according to the residents, there should be greater focus on Summit High School, where demographers hired by the board have projected enrollment increases of about 600 students by the 2016-2017 school year.
Although the school district recently completed architectural studies to determine facilities needs to coincide with academic programs a recent study has not been done of the high school, Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker said Thursday.
However, according to board president George Lucaci, high school principal Paul Sears and Vice Principal Anthony Akey have said although space might be “tight” for the next few years the school can meet expanding enrollment needs for the time being.
Sears said the school will be able to meet its curriculum program needs but it may not be able to expand its program offerings.
School Business Administrator Louis Pepe noted that under the third phase of the state RODs grants program a few years ago the school’s auditorium was completely renovated, emergency generators were installed, the school’s sidewalks were repaired and a former storage closet was converted into a media studio. In addition, due to a shared services agreement with the city, the district now has some of its vehicles repaired at the department of public works garage, thus freeing up more space for storage at the high school.
He added among the items in the five-year program that must be dealt with is $925,000 to repair boilers in the high school, some of which are more than 50 years old.
Pepe added, since the plan is focusing on what currently are seen as the district’s most pressing needs, but other items can be added later.
The list, as it stands at present, includes:
- $2,300,000 for auditorium upgrades at the Lawton C. Johnson Middle School;
- $3,325,000 for remodeling of science laboratories at the middle school;
- $1,150,000 for brick repointing at the middle school;
- $4,600,000 for an addition to Franklin Elementary School;
- $5,250,000 for security and site work at Jefferson Elementary School;
- $2,450,000 for expansion at Jefferson Primary Center if the city’s board of school estimate approves fullday kindergarten; and
- $2,600,000 for expansion at Wilson Primary Center if fullday kindegarten is approved.
In response to a question from resident Regina Feeney, Lucaci said the district originally estimated the fullday expansion pricetag at $10 million in 2008 when it thought the state was going to mandate both pre-school and fullday kindergarten and then the mandate was not approved.
Pepe added the original architectural scope of work lumped the proposed site and security work at Jefferson in with the kindergarten expansion items and then the items were separated into different line items.
He said even if fullday kindergarten is turned down the security and site work at Jefferson still will be necessary.
In fact, according to the business administrator, the district will present the list to the board of school estimate with specific cost estimates for each project so that it plan will not be an “all or nothing” proposition.
He did say security improvements are definitely needed in the elementary schools, where offices need to be relocated. The offices, according to Pepe, now are located in the centers of the buildings and a visitor, after being “buzzed in” can, in fact roam anyplace in the buildings.
The board on Thursday acted on one of the more critical needs of its schools by approving payment of $9,000 to E.I. Associates, its architects, for the study of the first phase of roofing to be done on Jefferson, Washington and Franklin Schools.
The roofing work, Pepe said, will be paid for from the board’s capital reserve--money set aside in each year’s current budget for capital needs.
Fullday kindergarten, if it is approved, will not begin operation until at least the fall of 2015, and operating costs for those facilities will not start accruing until the expanded sessions begin.
Although he said the time periods for the individual projects were difficult to estimate, the expansion projects at Franklin and Jefferson could take up to three years.
Lucaci said it probably was a good idea for the board to present its projects in priority order to the board of school estimate, and school estimate board members also should become well-versed on the specific details of each project so they can set their own priorities.
Parker announced the board meeting on April 18 would begin at 6 pm to be followed by a town hall-type session on the proposed five-year plan.
Individual board members also will be given the opportunity to express their feelings on the plan after they have had a chance to study it in depth, the board president said.
The superintendent noted the board of school estimate is expected to vote on the five-year plan on May 9.
Resident Woody Weldon of Colt Road urged the board members to look carefully at the whole package of proposals, remembering that 70 percent of the city’s residents do not have children in the schools.
Lucaci replied that more than a decade ago substantial numbers of residents opposed the district’s turf fields and the addition to the high school, but now Summit has a number of championship sports teams and is highly regarded academically.
Prior to Thursday’s meeting he also distributed several articles from a number of publications which, the board president said, pointed conclusively to the fact that high quality schools produce the highest property values in a community.
In other actions at the meeting, the board honored the high school boys ice hockey team for winning several all-county honors, high school basketball player Ba'shawn Mickens for becoming the highest scorer in school history, former football coach John Liberato for winning the Semper Fi Award from the Marines Corps, and two Summit High School students who were named Merit Scholarship finalists.
Also high school wrestler A.J. Iarussi was honored for coming in sixth in the state, with 114 wins, and coming in second place in the county. Wrestler Nick Abbott also was cited for his 100 and 22 record.
In other citations, board member David Dietz led the audience at the meeting in congratulating several of the cast members of the recently-completed high school run of The Beauty and the Beast, which has five nights of nearly sold-out performances using the original Broadway costumes from the show. He also once again honored the members of the Summit High School Boys Swimming Team for winning the school’s first state title. The team was honored by Mayor Ellen Dickson at Tuesday’s Summit Common Council meeting.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Washington School, where Thursday’s meeting took place, physical education teacher Tom Bowers presented an I-film and live student demonstration of the school’s rock climbing wall, built in honor of the anniversary.
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