Summit Board of Education Committee Supports Recommendation to Shelve Morris Avenue High School Parking Lot

The Board of Education operations committee concurs with EI Associates' recommendation not to proceed with a parking lot on the lower athletic field. Credits: TAPinto Summit

SUMMIT, NJ—-The Summit Board of Education Operations Committee has decided to go along with a school administration recommendation to not proceed with a parking lot near a Summit High School athletics field area adjacent to Morris Avenue that would possibly have addressed some student parking problems.

In announcing the decision at the board’s December workshop session, committee chairman David Dietze said the committee had taken into consideration not only the recommendation by the administration, but also facilities assessment recommendations made by EI Associates, the school district’s architectural contractor, and community input after public board meetings on the facilities assessments.

Dietze added that the approximate $1 million price tag for the additional parking facility possibly would take funds away from safety and security needs at the high school, including a new fire alarm system.

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He noted, however, that the committee was recommending that school officials continue to work with city officials on safety, parking, and traffic issues in the area of the high school in an effort to find alternative solutions.

Board president Katherine Kalin announced that a Common Council member had, in fact, approached her about forming a joint board and city committee to address the parking and traffic issues.

Kalin added, however, that board members were busy with a number of other tasks, and said that the operations committee could continue to work on the high school issues with city officials.

Colleen Manion of the high school Traffic, Parking and Safety Task Force replied, however, that she was sorry to hear that the operations committee supported the decision not to proceed with the additional parking area, especially in light of the fact that the committee had worked on traffic, parking, and safety issues around the school for more than a year.

Manion also suggested that the school body, instead of just following the priorities set by EI Associates and the architectural firm’s cost estimate of the project, should put the project out to bid or request information from different contractors to “get a better idea of what the cost of this parking lot would be.”

She also questioned why, for example, landscaping outside the high school cafeteria, was being given a higher priority than the parking area.

Assistant superintendent of schools for business Louis Pepe said it was “absolutely possible” for the district to seek bids on the project to estimate costs but, for that to happen, it would have to be proven, first of all, that “there was value going forward given the report and the other conditions that were identified.” 

Pepe went on to say the school body would have to determine what funds were available for Priority I projects in board reserve accounts.  

He also said, “we have found that EI Associates has been pretty much on target” with its projections.

Pepe also read the EI letter that accompanied its report in which the firm cited its experience in reviewing educational needs and justifications for its recommendations.

The Task Force member, however, said an operations committee recommendation of possibly hiring one crossing guard for the high school area was insufficient because there were many areas of safety to be considered.

She added that there still was merit in having cars coming to the high school and parking rather than “entering the queue” in front of the school.

Manion also urged the board to meet with Common Council members, as one of the governing body members had suggested, before making a decision.

Superintendent of schools June Chang pledged to continue working with city officials to address the safety and traffic issues.

On another matter, the school board voted to accept $85,011 in grants for the fall of 2015 from the Summit Educational Foundation (SEF).

Of the total, according to foundation grants chairwoman Diana Sajer, $37,188 would go to elementary school projects, $26,685 to proposals at the middle school and $21,138 for the high school.

Saying that the fall grant total seemed somewhat smaller than previous grant totals, Sajer noted that there was “always a natural ebb and flow of grant cycles.”

She said the lower totals came on the heals of last year’s larger amounts for such projects as the Chromebook Initiative, and in the face of a number of administrative changes in the schools of late.

Kalin said however, that the education body was extremely gratified for the work of the foundation and that its grants “enabled the district to do extraordinary things.”

Among the fall 2015 grants were:

  • $5,441 each for family mathematics programs in all third grades and family science programs in all second grades. These programs provide “hands-on activity-oriented, problem-solving situations to be experienced as a team” in evening sessions for students and their parents.
  • $8,610 for an In-School Comic Book Literacy Program in the Franklin School third grade during which Visual Arts Center of New Jersey staff members provide an “arts-based literacy program” beginning next month and continuing for 12 weeks. Students will be planning, writing, designing, and publishing their original comic books with the third grade's Heritage and Immigration theme.
  • $8,830 in continued annual funding for the middle school forensic debate team, including New Jersey Consortium membership, 50 hours of stipend each for two teachers and entry fees for two teams in three events.
  • $5,419 for the Gizmos program at the high school, which will provide interactive computer simulations that allow students to “enter and manipulate different variables within a simulation, experiment, visualization or formula.” This will allow students to better understand and participate in “highly complex scientific experimentation and analysis.”

Kalin also announced that, at the board’s December 17 meeting in the high school media center, the school’s National Merit Scholars would present books to their favorite teachers. This is an annual tradition in the district.

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