Newton Board of Education Decides to Expand Merriam Avenue School, Close Halsted

This is an aerial view of what the property would look like with the addition on it and the new parking lots. Credits: designed by EI Associates
Merriam Avenue School will be expanded according to Newton Board of Education Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Newton Board of Education plans to sell Halsted Middle School Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Yellow is existing building. Blue is new addition. Orange is re-purposing of classrooms. Credits: designed by EI Associates
Yellow is existing building. Blue is new addition Credits: designed by EI Associates

NEWTON, NJ—The Newton Board of Education voted unanimously take the next step in addressing the facility needs of the district at a special meeting on Tuesday.  They have decided to expand Meriam Avenue School to eventually house Newton’s pre-kindergarten through eighth grades. 

The board’s resolution directs Donna Snyder, the Business Administrator, to write up a "Letter of Intent to have EI Associates begin preparing the schematic design and Department of Education submission documents" according to Newton Superintendent Dr Kennedy Greene.

During the Special Meeting that took place on February 14, the board discussed EI Associates’ plans laying out a new structure that would connect to the existing Merriam Avenue School. The board noted that “all the layouts and positions of the classrooms are completely conceptual at this point.”

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The project was explained, for illustrative purposed, with a vision of how the districts students and staff could be housed.  The existing first floor could house kindergarten, first grade and third grade, administration offices, cafeteria/auditorium, gymnasium, library, reading room, art room, Spanish room, and a tech room.

The existing second floor could include grades four through sixth, a chorus room, an art room, special education room and a sixth grade science room.

The new addition would connect to the back of the existing building by the gymnasium and stretch towards the detention pond on the property.  The detention pond would be removed and placed underground. The new addition would be two floors and connect with corridors to the existing structure.

The first floor of the new addition could house pre-kindergarten and second grade classrooms, some third grade classrooms, special education rooms and a community space. The nurse’s office and the child study team offices will be moved to existing classrooms near the gymnasium.

The second floor of the new addition could be the new home for seventh and eighth grade with special education rooms, a band room, a seventh grade science room and an eighth grade science room.

A parking lot put in to the right of the existing gymnasium, with up to 48 spots.  An additional lot would be near to the new Gardner Avenue access way, with up to 22 spots.

The board members discussed moving the field hockey field, in order to incorporate an additional row of parking in that new lot. They also shared a concern that the playground, next to the newly created access way leading towards Gardner Avenue, be fenced in.

According to the board, this option makes it possible to keep the tennis courts where they currently are, as well as the existing parking lot with the solar panels.

This is the next step in the implementation of the School Facilities Plan that board has been working on since 2015. 

The process began with a meeting of residents and board members seeking input on the issue of district facilities.  The board then hired architectural firm EI Associates to develop scenarios that would meet the needs identified at the facilities meeting.  In 2016, EI Associates unveiled their options and after much discussion, the board made the decision to approve the Strategic School Facilities Plan.

The Plan removed any scenario that included Halsted’s continued use, due to its deteriorating structure and lack of technology infrastructure that the elementary and high school have which "help the students to get an exceptional education throughout the Newton school system."

When 2017 began, the board considered two of the scenarios developed by EI Associate’s.

Option one was to expand Merriam Avenue School to house grades pre-k through eighth, while option two included a slightly smaller expansion at Merriam Avenue School to house grades pre-k through sixth and an expansion on the existing high school to house grades seven through twelve.

The Newton Board of Education, after much discussion, decided to strike option two from the plan and solely have EI Associates focus on option one moving forward.

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