PLAINFIELD, NJ - As Plainfield School Business Administrator Gary Ottmann began explaining the need for trailers at Cook School, Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey asked him to deliver a message to the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.
“You need to tell them that they need to come before this board,” Bey said Thursday.
The school district announced a contest a year ago to name a new school that will replace Cook and Woodland elementary schools, but Ottmann was asking board approval Thursday only for temporary trailers to house some students at Cook while Woodland is being demolished. Ottmann said the NJSDA will pay the $700,000 cost of the trailers, which were expected to arrive the next day.
Bey wanted the board to hear from the authority before the demolition, and informed Ottmann that certain permits were necessary before it could take place.
“This is not being done properly,” Bey said.
Ottmann did say a traffic study was under way. The proposed school’s location was announced last year as Central Street and East Seventh Street. Bey said he believed it was to be in a flood zone, but when Planning Board member William Toth asked whether the new school was no longer in a flood zone, Ottmann answered, “Correct.”
Bey said plans showed it in a flood zone and it was the first time he was hearing it wasn't.
Among answers on the trailers, Ottmann said 220 students will be relocated from Woodland, but later put the number to be housed in trailers at about 120.
Board member Siddeeq El-Amin questioned how students would access toilets. Ottmann said the trailers would be only about ten feet from the school and a canopy would be erected at district expense. El-Amin asked whether people would be hired to escort students back and forth. Ottman said no, they would be older students in 4th and 5th grades.
“They still have bladders,” El-Amin said.
Bey asked how many more teachers would be needed, and where would they park. Ottmann said there would actually be fewer. Bey asked whether there would be “pathfinders” to help parents find students, and Ottmann said there would be orientation for both parents and students.
But Bey continued, “At this point, I don’t see a readiness to be affirmative about this.”
He said he wanted the state to have an opportunity to come before the board, even if the board had to have a special meeting. Ottman said the state expected to come back in November. After some further discussion, the board agreed to carry the hearing to Aug. 2.
The NJSDA has a website with descriptions of its projects, but the latest updates for Cook and Woodland schools are both dated January 1, 2016.