Work well under way at Spotswood schools

School year will end
June 7 to allow major
summer construction

Staff Writer

Work well under way
at Spotswood schools
School year will end
June 7 to allow major
summer construction
Staff Writer

FARRAH MAFFAI staff An addition can already be seen at Spotswood’s Memorial School.FARRAH MAFFAI staff An addition can already be seen at Spotswood’s Memorial School.

SPOTSWOOD — Despite a slight delay at Spotswood High School, a significant portion of the school district’s $16 million building project is already complete.

Due for a mid-2005 finish, the construction work has seen significant progress at all four district schools — the Schoenly and Appleby elementary schools, the Memorial Middle School and the high school.

Spotswood voters approved the $16 million building referendum in September 2002.

"We’re really impressed with the progress being made," Board of Education President Alan Bartlett said, noting that despite rough winter weather and a slight work delay, the high school component — which, at $6.6 million, is the largest — is basically on schedule.By early December, the Appleby School, which educates students in second through sixth grade, had 90 percent of its roof system and roofing complete, and the exterior brick roofs were about 98-percent done. Of the four schools, Appleby is receiving the least amount of work, at about $418,000.

Schoenly School, for pre-kindergarten through first grade, is getting large additions due to crowded conditions there. The parking lot expansion there is about 50-percent complete. The school’s window replacements are in, and footing and foundation walls for the main addition are also finished.

In addition, concrete slab work was done in October, and the underground plumbing and electrical work at Schoenly was also finished at that time. The roof steel and roofing system are now being finished.

The additions to Schoenly are important because the school may soon have a full-day kindergarten program, something many other school districts still do not have.

Bartlett said Spotswood has a committee studying the possibility of adding full-day kindergarten. He and other officials believe the program will eventually be mandated by the state.

At Memorial, the parking lot is just about finished, while the exterior block lots have been fully completed. The underground plumbing and electrical work is 95 percent done, Bartlett said last week.

Work on the Memorial School is significant in terms of its magnitude and importance, he said. The sixth-grade classes now being taught at Appleby will be moved to Memorial so it can become a full middle school. In addition, students will no longer have to walk from Memorial to the high school for classes such as music and art. The extra space will also benefit some sports teams.

Spotswood High School will get more classrooms, as well as a relocated administrative wing. The vocational and technical areas will also be expanded. A cafetorium expansion will accommodate all students, as current conditions force some seniors to leave for lunch.

The high school’s parking lot is complete, while the roof steel is scheduled to be finished soon, he said. Also, the excavation for the footing of the cafetorium’s expansion has been started.

Construction at the high school was hampered by the rain during November and December, but Superintendent of Schools Anthony Vas has worked closely with contractors to make sure the time is made up, the board president said. Crews fell a couple of weeks behind, but were working even on Christmas Eve and some weekends to get back on schedule.

Bartlett said officials were fearful of falling behind so early because January and February tend to pose even more weather problems.

"It was our concern of what may lie ahead," he said.

The weather did not affect the other schools as much as the high school because the other facilities already have concrete and shells up.

"They put up the walls and closed it in before the weather got bad," he said, "so a lot of the work they were doing was on the inside."

A major infrastructure project that had district officials holding their breath was completed last week when the gas line outside the high school was successfully relocated by Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), Bartlett said. Because the school was closed for the holidays, officials wanted to see that the work was finished early enough for extracurricular activities to resume last week.

The gas line was one of the main reasons why officials were so concerned when work at the high school became backed up earlier this year. Other than a four-day weekend, there will be no spring break this year for students, so the holiday break was the only time the work could be done before summer.

"We did not want to close school additionally for this," Bartlett said.

The project has already done enough to alter the normal school schedule.

Spotswood’s school year will end on June 7 — a couple weeks earlier than usual — in order to accommodate a greater period of construction during the coming summer. Students will still get 180 days of classes under the compressed schedule.

Bartlett said the community was "by and large" understanding of the unusual schedule.

"We found that people have been pretty receptive" to the fact that a lengthy period of summer construction was needed to make progress with the school improvements, Bartlett said, noting that those experiencing the greatest disruption are those families with two working parents who may be forced to find daycare for their children come June 7.

Bartlett said a decision will be made in February or March regarding the school calendar for 2004-05. It is possible that the school year may begin later than usual, but Bartlett said it will likely begin shortly after Labor Day, as usual.