MADISON, NJ - At the Board of Education meeting on October 30, board members and members of the public were given a tour of the athletic facilities at Madison High School. Leading the tour was Sean Dowling, the school’s Director of Athletics. The first stop on the tour was a visit to the training room which housed the school’s one trainer, Meg Barclay. Dowling explained that the equipment lining the hall outside the training room was an indication of “the big storage issue we have”. A member of the public later opined that this equipment created a tripping obstacle.

The next stop was the wrestling room where there is an issue with water buckling apparently from a leak in its ceiling. The goal is to cover the floor with mats, a vapor barrier, and padding. Dowling explained that this room is multi-purpose and is used for, in addition to wrestling, practice, yoga, phys ed, and Pilates. The district’s recreational wrestling team also uses this space for practice. As rec coach Nate Burrows explained, there are over 90 kids from kindergarten through eight enrolled in the program. There are 35 high school wrestlers signed up for the high school team.

The locker rooms were the next stop on the tour. The boys’ varsity locker room is used by the football, wrestling and lacrosse teams. There is a drying room to dry out equipment. The girls’ locker room is used by the field hockey, soccer, and volleyball teams. Dowling explained that girls never use the showers so that space is used for storage. The boys do shower, but the hot water often runs out.

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Dowling then showed the group the fitness room, which he explained “we have outgrown.” All phys ed and the sports teams use this facility. There are 18 pieces of cardio equipment. Eight spin bikes were donated to the center by Novartis and other equipment was donated by the Jets, who practice in nearby Florham Park. Wall mirrors were donated by former MHS student athlete, Neil O'Donnell through a grant sponsored by the NFL and facilitated by the Madison Huddle Club.  In 2016, Neil qualified for the NFL Foundation Super Bowl High School Honor Roll Grant because he played in one of the 50 NFL Super Bowls.

The tour led to board discussion of Superintendent Mark Schwarz’s Athletic Facility Proposal which included a presentation by member Lisa Ellis of the historical context of the proposed project. She stated that the spaces just observed have not changed since she attended Madison High School almost 40 years ago. $3.35 million from proceeds from the sale of the Green Village Road School in 2016 has been set aside for this project. That amount was approved by the Board in its 2018-2019 budget and was subsequently approved by the State.

Superintendent Schwarz presented the recommended priority list for this work, which can be seen in the Madison Locker Room Project attached to the agenda of October 30 on the Board of Education website. The proposals include a base project projected at $1,800,00 to be completed in 2018-2019 (including the team room, trainer room, and lockers), expanded fitness center and storage projected at

$525,000 to be completed in 2018-2019, wrestling room refurbished at projected cost of $30,000 in 2018-2019 and a new concession stand with bathrooms projected at $465,000 to be completed in 2019-2020. Patrick Seiwell of the architect of record, DRG (Design Resources Group Architects) provided more detail of the proposed plans and stated “we want to give students as much as can be afforded but we are somewhat limited by plumbing issues, roof support, and current space confines. DRG has maximized working with these restrictions.” A sample budget run down was presented by board business administrator Gary Lane and can also be seen in the Madison Locker Room Project also attached to the agenda of October 30 on the Board of Education website.

Several board members questioned the amount of $465,000 being estimated for the cost of a new concession stand with bathrooms. Many felt this amount is excessive. Discussion was had about the need for bathrooms outside of the high school to ensure security within the building. Several members responded that the school was open “all the time anyway.” Student representative Nick Kitsopoulos, who was invited to sit with the board, stated that he has worked in the “hut” and questioned whether it could be restored without need to replace it. He also questioned whether portable bathrooms could be used to save money and asked why the sample budget indicated a need for soil testing when the school building has sat on the same ground for “forever.” Board member Abi Singh asked whether there has been any consideration of a pre-fab, modular structure to be used for the concession stand.

Each present board member opined on Schwarz’s priority list. All members agreed that locker room improvements were needed immediately. Member Heather Perry opined that there are more immediate needs in the district to be addressed before the other athletic facility improvements should be enacted. Schwarz responded that fixing the ceilings in all district schools would cost approximately the same as improving the fitness center. He expressed that the district is “severely in need of maintenance and capital improvements” and gave as an example a feasibility study on air conditioning in the schools, a need that affects student achievement.

Board member David Irwin stated that he supported improving the locker rooms and the wrestling room but could not support the other proposed items in light of other commitments the school board faces, including all-day kindergarten. Board member Johanna Habib supports the board doing all it can but save the building of a new concession stand for another year. She opined that fixing the wrestling, cardio and fitness rooms are changes that “will last forever and will be here when my grandchildren attend the school.” Abi Singh agrees with the improvements after seeing the condition of the facilities. He does not approve of a new concession stand at this time. Member Pam Yousey agreed with all proposed changes except the concession stand at this time. Board member Tom Piskula stated that the school needs new locker rooms because the “old ones have been so poorly maintained. He also supports expanding the weight room because “it is so packed, it’s dangerous.” He also supports improvements to the wrestling room. Board member Lisa Ellis opined that the board should authorize building new space now, which can be repurposed in the future if necessary. She stated that the architect should come up with a more reasonable budget for the concession stand, which could be done in the 2019-2020 school year. Board member Leslie Lajewski agreed that the first three items on Schwarz’s proposed budget be approved and the concession stand postponed to 2019-2020.

The student representative Kitsopoulos spoke about his experience working in the hut and stated that it makes “a lot of money” for different organizations.

A straw vote was taken. All members, except Reddy, favored the first three items of the proposed priority list, except for the concession stand. It was agreed that “next year we can deal with the hut.”