SUMMIT, NJ - An “illiustrative” preliminary listing of capital improvements that Summit school officials feel would be needed in the next five years in the city’s education facilities, with a price tag of $28,600,000 was presented to the board of education and public Thursday by Edgar Mokuvos, chairman of the board’s operations committee, and School Business Administrator Louis Pepe.
Of the total amount, however, about $6 million would come from the district’s “Fund 12”, which encompasses amounts already reserved for capital expenditures in annual budgets over several years, Mokuvos said. Since that money already has been budgeted in annual spending plans, he said, it would not affect increases in annual tax levies.
He noted that the remaining $22,600,000 would have to be raised in bonding in conjunction with the city or raised through other methods.
Mokuvos estimated the annual tax impact of the $22.6 million in projects on the average Summit home at $206 or $207 if the state does not fund further Regular Operating Districts or RODs grants. If the fourth round of RODs grants is approved, however, he said the figure would drop to $124 annually.
Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker said the state has a considerable amount of money at its disposal that possibly could be used to fund a fourth round of RODs grants, although the Summit district is proceeding as if the RODs money will not be forthcoming. RODs grants would pick up about 40 percent of the costs of the projects.
The proposed projects include:
- $925,000 for boiler replacements at Summit High School;
- $2,300,000 for auditorium upgrades at the Lawton C. Johnson Middle School;
- $3,325,000 for remodeling of science laboratories at the middle school;
- $1,150,000 for brick repointing on the middle school building;
- $4,600,000 for an addition to Franklin School;
- $5,250,000 for security and site work at Jefferson Elementary School;
- $2,450,000 for expansion of the Jefferson Primary Center if the board of school estimate approves full-day kindergarten;
- $2,600,000 for expansion of the Wilson Primary Center if the school estimate board approves full-day kindergarten.
Mayor Ellen Dickson wanted to know why, if the board was saying six months ago that overcrowding at the Franklin School would be handled by possible redistricting and utilization of space it saw opening up at Jefferson School, that it now was saying that Jefferson School would have to be expanded to handle additional students.
Mokuvos replied that six months ago the board only had the benefit of a single demographic study that seemed to indicate additional space would be available at Jefferson, whereas, now, two additional demographic studies plus a review of the actual programatic usage of the space by EI Associates, the district’s architects, demonstrated the first estimates were incorrect.
Parker added the first studies looked at average projected class size while the later studies, with the benefit or architectural input, took into account actual space utilization.
Mokuvos also told The Alternative Press that it was possible the bonding for the projects could be spread over two years, thus cutting down on the yearly tax impact.
He also noted that building principals and other school officials had input into the capital projects list and worked with the operations committee and the architects to remove projects that were a lesser priority.
Responding to a question from resident David Shanker, the operations chairman said it was unlikely that any of these “second tier” projects would be added back into the list if the district decided not to proceed with fullday kindergarten because the projects now on the list were thought to be those necessary to maintain excellence in the district.
Parker added that most of the “second tier” projects would not have a significant impact on the overall pricetag.
In response to board member David Dietz, Pepe said that many of the included projects, such as correcting a problem with the level of the Jefferson School property, had been addressed with “band aid” approaches over the years and now needed a more comprehensive approach.
Other projects included in the list are geared to make entranceways into the various elementary schools more secure from unauthorized visitors, Mokuvos said.
The operations chairman noted the five-year plan would again be discussed at the Thursday, March 21, regular board meeting at 7:30 at Washington School, and a town hall-type meeting would be held from 7:30 to 9 pm at the board meeting on April 18.
Pepe added that the plan would be presented to the board of school estimate on May 9.
Board Vice President Gloria Ron-Fornes also said board members would hold information sessions on the proposals beginning at 9:30 am on Saturdays, March 23 and 30, and April 6, at the middle school.
On another matter at Thursday’s workshop session, Police Chief Robert Weck gave an overview of security measures at the schools, many of which have been enhanced since the Newtown, Conn. school shootings.
He noted that the measured were instituted, “not so we would be scared but so we would be prepared.”
Noting Summit police can now respond anywhere in the city in about 2 to 3 minutes, Weck said his department has instituted standard operating procedures to respond to an “active shooter situation” in any building in Summit.
He said every school, in conjunction with the county, now has direct radio contact with the police and there are lockdown drills and regular patrols in the school buildings.
In addition, according to the chief, critical assessments have been made of the security needs and concerns of every school building as major offices and other businesses.
He also encouraged all parents to practice “active parenting” and, if they suspect an incident such as potential bullying the the schools, “if you see something, say something.”
Weck said police did not necessarily need to identify those reporting incidents in order to act on such reports.
Noting a recent report that there were about 300 unannounced visitors to Summit High School each day, he said both parents and students should be educated that only those with authorized access should be entering the schools. He said it was not a good practice, especially in high school, for parents to bring forgotten lunches or other items to their children in school without making authorities aware they were coming.
On another matter, district technology coordinator Douglas Orr and school technology teachers presented the district’s three-year plan to improve student access to technology, upgrade technology to enhance learning, use students’ own devices to improve learning and increase teacher training in technology.