BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Bernards Township school administrators hope to seek bids by the middle of September to build a brand-new kitchen for Ridge High School that would enable the implementation of an eight-period "rotating" schedule in a future school year.

Superintendent Nick Markarian said last Monday that the school and its architect, talked about the key dates for action in a planning meeting last week. The meeting also included a discussion about plans to upgrade science classrooms at the William Annin Middle School, he said at last week.

Renovation of science classrooms planned at WAMS 

Sign Up for Basking Ridge Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The superintendent said administrators also talked with the architect about the district's other upcoming major facilities project, the renovation of science classrooms at WAMS, projected to be done in the summer of 2021.

Counters to accommodate sinks and water service will be installed in four sixth-grade science rooms, he said, and two eighth-grade earth science rooms will see new cabinets and counters built for lab stations. 

The board's architect, Spiezle Architectural Group, of Trenton, was already hired Jan. 6 to redesign and expand the Ridge kitchen so that it could serve staff and students in one (albeit longer) class period. Spiezle will be paid $171,600 for its services.

The kitchen expansion is estimated to cost $2.9 million. The Ridge kitchen, which will be enlarged and feature new ovens, refrigerators, stoves and the like, is a necessary part of the plan to restructure the high school day.

In December the Bernards Township Board of Education decided to scale back construction plans at the high school, and only to rebuild the kitchen while dropping plans to add four classrooms on a second floor.

If the redesigned kitchen is bid by September and contractors chosen by Thanksgiving, Markarian said, work would begin in April 2021 with an eye to completion by September 2021. That would dovetail with the planned future implementation of a “rotating drop” block schedule of fewer, but longer, class periods per day. 

Markarian said in January the kitchen would virtually be gutted and perhaps expanded by annexing an adjacent all-purpose workroom. Thirty-year-old kitchen equipment would be replaced. 

Kitchen would be shut at end of 2020-21 school year under plans

The projected construction scenario involves shutting down the kitchen for the last two to three months of the 2020-21 school year and “getting creative” in ways to serve lunch, Markarian said. 

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 wants to switch to a “rotating drop” schedule of eight class periods, each about 55 to 60 minutes long, in a day. Such a revision would require one common lunch period for the entire school. Now, about 2,000 students and staff eat lunch over many class periods spanning from about 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Currently, the school has nine periods of 42 minutes each. In the rotating block schedule, students would have class in each subject in four of any five days, according to the school district's plans.

Markarian said this week the school will use this spring’s student course selections to build two master schedules this summer. A nine-period schedule will be implemented for use in the 2020-21 school year, and an eight-period day will be designed as a “dress rehearsal” for the rotating block schedule in the following school year.