*** Correction: An earlier version of this post had an incorrect email address. The correct email address is facilities@
The school year, according to Superintendent of Schools Jack Hurley, is off to a good start. The curriculum, the heart of any school, is strong, and teachers and students are engaged in active learning.
But there are challenges to be met, Mr. Hurley knows, and many have been identified by a Strategic Planning Committee and a community survey taken last spring. The curricular and co-curricular offerings should be expanded even further to meet the growing and changing needs of students. Very tight building space makes these advances almost impossible.
All of the trends and inadequacies being addressed come from this community input, not from the superintendent or the Board of Education. The Board has now taken the first step, should a referendum be held, by having an architect develop concepts, not a fixed plan, to address the concerns that have been raised.
Which problems need to be solved by building projects or remaking existing spaces? Mentioning just a few will provide some details about the score of what needs to be done. At the high school, for example, the science labs need upgrading and more labs are needed to meet the demands of the growing STEM program. The cafeteria has a capacity of only 290, the lack of classroom space means that teachers move from room to room all day, and the field is inadequate for wellness programs and some after-school sports. The Mortimer wing needs serious upgrades.
At Pierrepont School a new gym with a stage is seen as necessary. The current gym is 41% smaller than those at Washington and Lincoln. The “temporary” buildings are 42 years old and should be demolished. The lost rooms could be replaced by a one or two story addition on the site. Security fencing and air conditioning were also identified as needs.
At Union School a new gym might be built behind the cafeteria and the existing gym turned into three science classrooms for middle school classes and to support the work of the award-winning STEM team. A modern science program demands modern labs. The school also needs air conditioning in the auditorium, moisture control for floors, and repairs to columns at the front of the school.
While the needs are not as acute at Washington and Lincoln schools with the school reorganization, enrollment growth could come at any time. There must be space available for the special education population as the children move through the grades after beginning in the pre-school autistic program. Mr. Hurley sees this as both a moral and fiscal responsibility. Some issues at the Kindergarten Center are critical, with the need for bathrooms in each classroom, roof repairs, and an elevator.
Not a comprehensive list of the challenges ahead, these items serve as a starting point for consideration by the Board of Education. No final decisions will be made on the scope of the projects until January or February. Plenty of time remains for community members to question and comment.
This decision must be made as a community, Mr. Hurley stresses. He encourages residents to share their thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions of all residents are sought, whether of concern or of support. While there is still time to think and to talk, the Board must plan if a referendum is to be held.
Superintendent Hurley emphasizes that some of these building issues must be addressed for safety reasons or to meet State requirements. He and the Board welcome the voice of the community as everyone works together to keep the Rutherford schools strong and vibrant as they move into the future.