NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – As several state and local officials and district students donned safety helmets and shovels to break ground on the new Robeson Community Theme School for the Arts addition in early November, Superintendent Dr. Aubrey Johnson is keeping his eye on future enrollment.

“The renovation project at Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts is part of the district’s Long Range Facility Plan, which is focused on updating and upgrading all schools into innovative, 21st century learning environments,” Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. “The long-range plan is also designed to provide the additional space necessary for addressing increased enrollment that our district has experienced for more than a decade.”

Johnson joined students as well as community leaders and New Jersey School’s Development Authority CEO Charles McKenna on Nov. 3 to break ground on what will be a 60,000 square-foot, three-story, addition and renovation to the school on Commercial Avenue.

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“It is great to be back in New Brunswick today to mark the construction of another significant project that, once complete, will double the capacity of this school,” McKenna said in a Nov. 3 press release. “The Christie Administration’s commitment to improving New Jersey’s educational infrastructure and the productive partnerships we enjoy with New Brunswick school and local officials, have ensured that the students of the Robeson Community School for the Arts will have a learning center equipped with the

tools needed to help them achieve greatness.”

According to the SDA, the addition will include a new multi-purpose room, 30 additional classrooms, four small instruction rooms, and two Basic Skills/ESL classrooms.

Meanwhile, the 59,400 square-foot existing school will be renovated, and will include the introduction of a fire sprinkler system and the renovation/rearrangement of spaces including the school’s food service area, media center, classrooms, nurse’s office, main office, and student services suite, according to the release.

Work on the school should be completed and ready for students by September 2018, according to the state.

Hall Construction Company, Inc. of Farmingdale in Monmouth County, won the $32 million bid to design and build the addition and renovations, the release said.

That firm will team up with Paulus, Sokolowski & Sartor Engineering, PC of Warren, to perform the design work, and GREYHAWK North America, LLC of Mount Laurel, New Jersey is the construction manager for the project, totaling some $47 million, according to the release.

According to the release, the authority usually awards a bid to just one company for both design and construction, but in this case, is using a design-build method with multiple companies so that design and construction work can proceed concurrently.

The SDA said it has already invested $270 million in New Brunswick projects alone and has a portfolio of around $2 billion in projects and grants.

“This ground-breaking event represents the beginning of a wonderful project that, by adding capacity to New Brunswick’s growing school community, will address the needs of our students for years to come,” Dr. Johnson said in the release. “Thanks to New Jersey’s Schools Development Authority, after two years of construction we’ll welcome our students back into an all-but-new facility for the Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts. I know I speak for the entire New Brunswick community when I say we’re appreciative.”

In his statement, Wednesday, however, Dr. Johnson did not elaborate on the district’s plans to deal with enrollment issues going forward.