WEST ORANGE, NJ -- Acting Superintendent Eveny de Mendez reported on an update on Legionella at Monday’s West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) meeting.
Omega has concluded its testing and that data has now been passed onto Risknomics, a consultancy group that will assess the data and come up with recommendations for the long term. This work will take four to six weeks, and a presentation will be made by either the end of February or the beginning of March with the next steps to be implemented.
As of now, de Mendez has confirmed that all short-term plans have been implemented, and the long-term plans will soon go into effect, which will include the mapping of dead-end pipes and analyzing risk assessments of how Legionella can be housed or grown.
In other news, de Mendez also presented her reports on the status of different facilities in the district.
Regarding the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) report, de Mendez reported that State officials will come to the district over the course of the next month to conduct sight visits in conjunction with the West Orange Police Department (WOPD). The state will also do sample security visits, in which they and police officers will attempt to get into the building in order to assess at risk access points. There will also be active shooter drills and other types of scenarios to test vulnerability.
These visits will come unannounced, but when the drills are in effect, they will be announced to not cause undue alarm.
This is closely related to plans to beef up security in all schools for next year’s budget, by contracting a security firm, and adding mantraps to 10 different locations across the school district. These mantraps function so that an exterior door would remain open and an interior door would be locked during school hours. In between this area a person entering would be seen by a camera installed on the inside along with an intercom. On the side facing the interior of the building, an access control would be provided to security who would open the door.
WOBOE member Mark Robertson brought up that issues surrounding HIB are often associated with mental health, and he continued that more should be done to use counseling to address issues associated with HIB.
de Mendez agreed with this point going on to clarify that there is an initiative to form a committee to address issues that cannot be taken care of by school counselors alone. Outside agencies need to be brought in, and all staff need to receive professional development so that everyone will be properly trained to provide support not only to victims of bullying and their families, but to bullies themselves in order to prevent perpetuating behavior in the future.
A formal report on how to approach bullying in the district will come at a later WOBOE meeting.
Plans to continue work on constructing the “Bubble” are under way, but after listening to some feedback from coaches and others, the architect is being asked to consider extending the track from 75 feet to 130 feet. This could be accomplished by moving the walls back on the locker spaces, said de Mendez. The architect will have to go back to the drawing board, but an announcement will be made at the next WOBOE meeting on Feb. 11. After the drawings are finished, decisions will be made to see who will go to bid to work on the interior of the “Bubble.” Construction will then start in either April or June and the work will hopefully be done before students start school in September.