Education

Nutley Residents Express Concerns at Weekend Viewing of School Construction Concepts

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NUTLEY, NJ - The Nutley Public Library hosted the Nutley Board of Education and Public School Administration to showcase the concepts for proposed school construction on Saturday February 18. The informal setting allowed members of the public to express their ideas and concerns about the challenges facing the district. 

On display were the architectural solutions created by DiCara Rubino Architects to address spatial challenges facing Nutley’s schools. Superintendent Dr. Julie Glazer was on hand, representing the District administration. Board of Education President Danny Carnicella was present along with VP Debbie Russo and members Brenda Sherman and Sal Balsamo.

Guests gathered around easels displaying ‘work in progress schemes’ for additions at Yantacaw Elementary, Washington Elementary, Walker Middle School and Nutley High. The total cost is $68.9 million with the district contributing approximately $2.4 million from capital reserve to complete some of this work. The total cost to bond is $66.5 million. Glazer told TAPinto Nutley that the cost estimates are based on the concepts, "everything has to go to the state" for approval. 

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Glazer stressed the idea of the 'shrinking classroom.' 'Overcrowding' suggests that the schools are approaching fire code capacity, in Nutley the schools are reaching program capacity. When the elementary schools added all day Kindergarten, the number of classrooms used by that age group suddenly doubled. New programs for students on the spectrum, English language classes, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech all required class space. Additionally basic skills classes, for students who are not performing at grade level put additional demands on space utilization. 

Carnicella and Russo both spoke with citizens about the trailers. Russo explained that just moving the sixth graders to Walker Middle School will not eliminate the trailers. Carnicella further explained that the sixth graders are already in trailers.It was understood that without construction at Yantacaw, students coming into the district would use the trailers even if the sixth graders moved to Walker. 

Guest Request for WOW Factor.

Joe Battaglia, a life-long Nutley resident whose wife teaches at Washington, clearly articulated his request: “The district needs to put together a working group that includes faculty, administrators, teachers and parents from EVERY school in the district.”

Battaglia felt this group has ‘a unique knowledge of the infrastructure and workings of the schools’ and is the best resource for input into the proposed plans. He was open to including other members of the Nutley community in additional working groups to provide additional input on construction plans.

“This is an impact investment in Nutley.” Battaglia was resolute. “Every school needs a dedicated communications room to show our commitment to expansion of telecommunications in infrastructure and instruction. We need to expand our focus beyond square footage needs.”

Pointing to the plans on display, Battaglia said. “We need a WOW factor to improve the value of our schools”.

Battaglia was concerned about Nutley’s ranking. “New homebuyers look at school rankings. Other districts have outpaced us.” He cited Wilson school in Westfield, NJ which according to Battaglia was built ‘around the same time as Yantacaw’ and has undergone several additions.

Looking to Purchase a Home in Nutley

The owner of a townhome is Cambridge Heights said she and her husband are currently looking to purchase a single family home. “Before we buy I want to make sure the school system is where we want to send our children when they start school.”

The couple is currently looking at homes in towns like Glen Ridge ‘because of the school systems’. Marisa Galioto said they would prefer to stay in Nutley because of the location. She said she commutes daily to her job in NYC and her husband commutes to his restaurant “Blue Eyes” on Sinatra Drive in Hoboken. Galioto owns Blue Eyes Restaurant along with Pasquale and Nicola Di Palma, the brothers who run the popular Nutley's destination restaurant Regina Margherita.

She said “A telling thing that the number of kids was increasing in Cambridge Heights was the pool”. The Galioto’s bought their home in 2011 and noticed that every year there have been more and more children at the pool.

Nutley High graduate and Weichert realtor John Campanile, said “In 2005, the market peaked. It is coming back but it’s not back at 100% yet. ” According to Campanile, there are currently 61 homes for sale in Nutley.

Another resident ‘Rob’ (no last name given) said his wife went to Washington and now his daughter was a student there. In a discussion with Superintendent Glazer he learned that an area he thought might be used as part of the addition was used for housing of the geothermal equipment. He said: ‘I’m totally for spending whatever we need. However, there needs to be more thinking through the plans.’

In 2010, referendum upgrades completed at Washington included: a new geothermal HVAC system, new windows, new façade, classroom converted for kindergarten. The Superintendent at the time, Joe Zarra said, “With the renovations to the façade, the character of the school was maintained."

John Perino asked Dr. Glazer: “Now much recreation space is being lost at Yantacaw?” “Zero.” Dr Glazer explained that the current play area will be moved to the other side of the building. Perino also wanted to know why the drawings of proposed plans of display were not available online.  Superintendent Glazer cited security concerns since the Sandy Hook tragedy as the reason.

Linda Rafanello, a Yantacaw Place resident, expressed several areas of concern about the Yantacaw school proposals. Chief among her concerns was the impact of construction on residents close to the school during each of the two summers in which the work will be done. Her husband Dennis Rafanello expressed concerns about emergency vehicle access during pick up and drop off times. Parking is prohibited on the right (school) side of Yantacaw place. At the joint Board of Commissioners/Planning/ Zoning Board meeting, Public Safety Commissioner Al Petracco told residents to "call me if they (the police) don't respond" when you call about the parking and traffic issues.

According to the drafts, the proposed $15.6 million expansion at Yantacaw includes six classrooms, a multipurpose room with a kitchen, additional toilet facilities, relocation of main office and a secure entrance. 

Gerry Mc, the parent of a Walker Middle School student and a High School student said: “I’m here gaining information to make an informed decision when I am called upon.” 

The Board has been working with the architects to refine the plans since they were introduced at the first Town Hall Jan 17 at Yantacaw. It Happened at Yantacaw and Lincoln: School Overcrowding Forums on TAPinto Nutley. As the event drew to a close, a Washington school parent told TAPinto Nutley "I am afraid it is not going to pass." 

A report will be given to the community at the public meeting February 27 at 6:30pm in the Middle School Music Room. The refined projects would need to be voted on as a referendum by the community. The first available date the State allows the referendum to be voted on is September 2017.

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