BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ — Replacement of kitchen appliances at Ridge High School will be postponed for a year, but the plan to switch the class-day period schedule remains on target for September 2021.

The board had touted a more productive kitchen and café as part of any plan to restructure the high school day to a “rotating drop” block schedule of fewer, but longer, class periods. A newer kitchen and café would allow the school to serve lunch to the entire student body and staff at one time, as opposed to spreading service over several periods.

Without a café and kitchen renovation, it would be a “less-than-ideal situation than what we wanted,” Bernards Township Superintendent Nick Markarian said Monday at the “virtual” Board of Education meeting. He said he was confident the day could be structured with a unit lunch using current facilities. Prepared food would be brought in to supplement the kitchen’s production.

Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

A modernized kitchen will feature new ovens, refrigerators, stoves and freezers in a revised floor plan.

The rotating drop schedule for Ridge is an idea long discussed. Board President Karen Gray thanked Markarian for recommitting to the idea. She said she was “pleased to know the effort is under way as we look forward to next year.”

In May, the Board of Education heard suggestions from the public that it suspend the $2.9 million project, given the uncertainty of state funding and the poor general economy in the midst of the Covid-19 virus crisis.

The timeline had been for the job to be bid before the end of 2020, begin work in the spring and be in operation for the 2020-21 school year. The district plans to pay for the project without conducting a bond referendum.

As part of the May 4 budget presentation Business Administrator Rod McLaughlin showed a floor plan of one design of a new kitchen and cafeteria.

The district is positioned well, with a healthy capital projects reserve fund, Markarian said in May, and he had “every confidence the Board of Education would be well advised by the CFO.”

Cafeteria seating space would not increase. Instead the school would look to other rooms and gyms as space for students to eat lunch.

The school board has indicated a desire to switch to a “rotating drop” schedule of eight class periods, each about 55 to 60 minutes long, in a day. Students would have class in each subject in four of five days in a week. Right now, the school has nine periods of 42 minutes each and students have class for each subject each day.

Such a revision would require one common lunch period for the entire school. Now, about 2,000 students and staff eat lunch over five class periods spanning from about 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Following a demographer’s report that estimated a declining high school population at least through 2023-24, the board heard administrators in December describe how the high school could adapt to a rotating drop schedule with the facilities it has. It might be tight in the first school year of 2021-22, but grow easier as the student population declines in succeeding years, they said.