WEST ORANGE, NJ – With the school year only a couple weeks in, Superintendent Dr. J. Scott Cascone was pleased to announce during last week’s West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) meeting, that after hearing feedback from several parents, “this is the smoothest [school] opening,” that they have seen in years.

“That is very pleasing to me as a superintendent,” Cascone said. “Ultimately, that’s what I’m trying to accomplish: [to] create an environment that’s smooth and efficient for our staff and students.”

Another smooth transition occurred with the introduction of new student board liaisons Darlene Folas, a high school senior and Senay Dani, a high school junior. Immediately getting down to business, the liaisons asked the superintendent about the status of the GPS school bus tracking system that was discussed at previous meetings.

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Cascone explained that the devices provided by Zonar, a company that provides bus-tracking technology, have been installed on all district buses, but the district is still currently working with outside bus vendors to do the same with theirs.

He continued that the district has also purchased new high school student IDs that are equipped with a chip that he said is “necessary for it to function with the Zonar device.” A pilot is planned at WOHS for later this year, he said.

According to the superintendent, having these devices will give the transportation department even more capacity in knowing the exact location of each bus as well as when students have gotten on or off the bus.

“In the event that we are missing the student or something of that nature, we’ll be able to know whether they got on the bus at all, when they got off [and] where they got off,” Cascone said.

In other news, in follow-up to a recent special meeting about the district’s Long Range Facilities Plan, the WOBOE unanimously voted to approve the facilities evaluation proposed by EI Associates, an architectural and engineering firm.

“This facilities evaluation was proposed and determined after a comprehensive analysis by Mr. [Bob] Csigi (Director of Buildings and Grounds) himself in terms of what had already been done in the way of evaluations as well as taking stock of what evaluations had been performed of the previous ESIP (Energy Savings Improvement Program) project as well as the previous work that was done by the architects,” said Cascone.

He added that this proposal ensures that there is no “redundancy in this additional evaluation that’s being conducted” and that it will allow the district to operate from an “informed and comprehensive perspective to deliberate on what is necessary for referendum.”

Cascone also provided an update on the “Bubble,” the air structure used as an athletic facility at WOHS. The superintendent was “very pleased” to inform the public that the district was “able to successfully negotiate through the conflict that existed between the manufacturer of the Bubble and the contractors.”

Since the Aug. 26 meeting, Cascone said that the “work is moving forward,” with the expectation of having the Bubble’s lockers delivered by mid-October and the facility fully operational within “several weeks.”

Csigi also came before the board to give a presentation detailing some of the projects that were completed over the summer.

“Many people think we have 10 months, but it’s only 10 weeks—so what we get done is amazing,” said Csigi, referring to the summer weeks in between school years.

One of the improvements that Csigi mentioned included the trailers being removed from Redwood and Gregory Elementary Schools. In exchange, Redwood received a larger parking lot and a “kiss-and-go” lane, while Gregory will be getting a new field in place of where the trailers and the asphalt walkways once were.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get a nice finished field there so kids can expand their play area,” said Csigi. “In the future, we’ve thought about expanding the playground or moving or relocating. So, we’ll be talking with the PTA to help us with that.”

He also mentioned some costs associated with the improvements, including $225,000 spent on all asphalt; $90,000 spent on heating dryers; $100,000 spent on carpeting and floor tile replacement in the district; and $40,000 spent on a new fire alarm system at Hazel Elementary.

According to Csigi, the Buildings and Grounds Department hopes to replace another system next year.

“We try to do one a year,” said Csigi. “Parents are the driving forces behind a lot of these things that they say need to get done, so we put them on the agenda, and we get the money for it and we get it done.”

Csigi also shared that when applicable, the improvements were made while keeping sustainability in mind, including new LVT tile in 24 rooms, or flooring that does not require wax, using non-toxic paints and other materials as well as washable fiber mops rather than repurchasing cloth mops.

The board was content with all of the improvements being made throughout the district. Board member Terry Trigg-Scales also praised Cascone, who is only 11 weeks into his term, stating that “this marriage is off to a very good start” and that the board hopes that “the honeymoon will last a very long time.”

To read more about this meeting, where the WOBOE adopted both its district and board goals for the 2019-2020 school year, click HERE.

The next board meeting will be held on Oct. 7.