WESTFIELD, NJ – Upgrades to Gary Kehler Stadium, emergency generators and automatically locking classroom doors are among the capital and maintenance projects in the works at the Westfield School District.
School Business Administrator Dana Sullivan detailed these and other projects during the school board meeting Tuesday.
“When you look at our buildings, they are in amazing shape,” Sullivan said, despite the advanced ages of the buildings. The district’s oldest building is McKinley School, built in 1908, and the newest is Tamaques School, built in 1963. Lincoln School was built in 1922 and underwent renovations in 2008.
“We have to continue to maintain them,” Sullivan said. “There are always things that will come up.”
The district is planning five capital projects for the summer of 2019, with an estimated total cost of $10.3 million, including:
- Gary Kehler Stadium Renovations – $3.2 million
- Emergency Generators – $2.6 million
- Toilet/Lobby Renovations – $1.1 million
- Door Replacements/Security Gates – $2.6 million
- TV Studio Renovations – $900,000
The Kehler Stadium renovations have begun. Preparations for the renovations began with the removal of bleachers in February. The bulk of the work is projected to begin April 8 and be completed by the end of the summer. The district plans to install the emergency generators before the new school year starts.
Westfield High School, Edison Intermediate School and Roosevelt Intermediate School are all expected to receive new classroom and stairwell doors that lock automatically once the principal initiates a lockdown, as well as security gates that will lock certain areas of the building.
The board approved a contract to begin this project during Tuesday's meeting. Work on this is expected to begin at the start of the summer and conclude sometime in September. Sullivan said the district hopes to install similar doors in the elementary schools in the summer of 2020.
Renovations to the auditorium lobbies will be done at Edison Intermediate School and Roosevelt Intermediate School. Both intermediate schools, along with the high school will also have restroom renovations completed this summer. A contract for this project has already been awarded, and renovations will begin once the school year ends.
The district plans to award a contract for TV studio renovations at Westfield High School. The board is slated to review and approve a contract for this project during their April 30 meeting.
Sullivan discussed possible summer 2020 capital projects, which would cost about $9.6 million if approved. These projects are subject to change as the district evaluates what is most necessary to complete. The planned projects include the following:
- Door replacement at all elementary schools – $2.9 million
- HVAC upgrades and A/C for IT department – $1.8 million
- Classroom renovations – $259,000
- Locker replacements (for locker rooms) – $240,000
- Blacktop and Asphalt replacement – $225,000
- Roof replacement at Jefferson School (over 1996 addition) – $187,500
- Turf Field at Westfield High School – $4 million
“The potential turfing of the field at the high school is a possibility,” said board member Gretchan Ohlig. “This is a living, breathing document, and as other priorities of the district may shift, we may find a more appropriate use.”
“It is something that we’ve been talking about for a while, whether it happens next year or not,” she added.
These larger-scale projects would use capital reserve funds, which are deposited by the district into an account to cover major project costs. The district has been adding to these funds over the past few years, largely due to the savings accumulated from self-insuring health insurance plans.
Meanwhile, the district plans to use maintenance reserve funds on a variety of smaller projects, including ceiling and lighting replacements, painting, resurfacing floors, concrete repairs, security enhancements and gym floors. The district deposits these funds into an account to cover required maintenance. The district has also been adding money to these funds in recent years.
Sullivan said the district will not require any town referendum funds. If requested, the town may approve a referendum to sell bonds in order to fund projects. The last referendum, which voters approved in 2016, funded auditoriums, boilers, security upgrades and other renovations.
The board approved the district’s five-year plan for maintenance and capital projects. This approval is nonbinding, and the plan can be changed based on the needs of the district. The state requires districts to have a long-range maintenance plan in order to maintain their capital reserve account.
The five-year plan is updated annually. Sullivan meets with the principals of each school every year to make adjustments to the plan based on what each school feels is a priority.
“It’s a sign that this is a fiscally responsible district, and we’re working really hard to be able to maintain these old schools, and it’s not an easy thing,” said Board President Peggy Oster. “We really appreciate that the schools are in the position that they are right now.”