NEWTON, NJ – Half a dozen members of the Newton Board of Education crowded into the girls' room at the Merriam Street School, on Wednesday November 28, to see for themselves why replacing the faucets was on the high priority list of facility needs.
Guided by an assessment compiled by EI Associates, Architects in September 2011, Dr. Kenneth Greene, Superintendent, Donna Snyder, Business Administrator, and Dave Hughen, Head of Maintenance, led the group through all three facilities: Merriam Avenue School, Halsted Middle School, and Newton High School.
Present were board members Ed Caffrey, President, Jess Egner, Vice President, Rich Hickman, Ann Marie Cooke, Green Township Representative, Linda Gianni, Andover Township Representative, Terry Van Auken, Stella Dunn, and Tina Larsen.
“We do this a couple of times a year,” said Board President Ed Caffrey. “We start right after all the summer projects are done. I give many kudos to maintenance, they do a top job.”
The meeting began at the Merriam Avenue School Library with a roll call and Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
Greene then explained, “The board’s role is specific, there is policy, hiring, negotiating and, of course, the budget. I want to make sure the board members feel educated, so that they are empowered to make these decisions. We’ve had the opportunity to do some facilities work in the past couple of years, and hopefully, we’ll have some money to do some more work.”
The major work done this past summer was to install an Astroturf field behind the High School. To see a previous article from The Alternative Press, click here.
Facilities were not the only important topic of discussion.
“Make sure your cell phones are on, so we can be interrupted at any moment with news of our boys,” announced Gianni.
Beginning at 7:30 p.m., the Newton High School Boys Soccer Team was up against Cliffside Park at Millburn.
“If they win, they go to State Finals later this week,” explained Greene.
The boiler room at each facility was inspected.Hughen fielded questions, and provided detailed explanations at every step of the tour.
“The pneumatic control system will cost about $240,000, he explained.”
When asked what the life expectancy of a boiler was, he shrugged. “We take good care of this equipment, it could last indefinitely."
"Each summer, these boilers are completely broken down, cleaned and put back together. It’s part of the regular summer maintenance. All the work is done by our maintenance staff,” said Snyder.
Also on the list were door reconfigurations (doors not meeting standards set in the Americans with Disabilities Act), window replacement, and classroom upgrades.
“The instructional models are changing,” said Greene. “We are now looking for areas within the classroom for small group instruction and flexible class space.”
The High School provided some of the best examples of this. The group delighted in the newly renovated art room.
“The furniture is adjustable, and moveable,” said Snyder. “The art teachers are really appreciative. It is adjacent to our new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lab, so the art students can use that lab for computer generated artwork.”
During the tour, the group encountered the Newton Robotics Team using the STEM lab.
“This group represents what the State of NJ calls 21st Century Careers,” said Greene. “Our lab allows the students to work on computers, and create the robots in the same space.”
Some of the Science Labs have already been updated, with furniture than can be moved and adjusted. Some of the older labs are on the list.
When the group got to the auditorium, they encountered the World Language Honor Society Candlelight Induction Ceremony being held. It was evident to see the board’s pride in their students.
There, however, they were faced with more complex environmental issues.
“The floor tiles, and the ceiling need replacing. However, when you take down the ceiling," said Greene. "It will create airborne asbestos, which will eventually drift down into the seat cushions. The whole project has to be done at once.”
At the end of the tour, Dunn said, “It is good to do the tour, so we can see the issues. We see that our schools are in good condition. We see that our maintenance staff does a great job. It’s nice to see the progress on the things we approved last year.”
Greene commented, “I want the board to be fully knowledgeable as we head into budget season.”
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