Even though some of the last final changes of furniture arrangement on the addition to the newly renovated Lincoln Elementary School were still in progress last week, the renovation is clearly a success. Delighted teachers were scurrying about getting their classes ready for the next day. The colorful integrity of the design contributed by Bloomfield architect John Fallon was making everybody who entered the splendid new corridors and learning rooms quite impressed and cheery.
Photos by Celeste Regal Kindergarten teacher Tracy Smegnagliulo welcomes parents and their children on their first day at the newly remodeled Lincoln School in Kearny.
Kearny BOE Director of Plant Operations Mark Bruscino was giving this reporter a second tour of the work on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The first time around there was snow on the ground and the fully equipped classroom pods weren’t on the grounds yet. Now they’re gone and in their place is an accomplishment of an array of professionals from the Kearny Board of Education, Principal Paul Reitemeyer, the architect, Frank Bennett Contractors, Kearny Building Code Official Mike Martello, the funding source personnel, and the town. Putting a building together is as difficult as getting the money in place and coordination is key. While the contractors had a 39-day window to complete the project, they did it in 20 days – no mean feat and a rare one in this line of business.
“It’s absolutely mind boggling how terrific it is to go from what it looked like a year ago,” the principal emoted with great lee. “The relationship with both Fallon and Bennett worked out well – it was outstanding.”
Due to the $17 million grants from Port Authority of New York and New Jersey through the noise abatement project (around $11 million) and the state Schools Development Authority, the Board of Education was responsible for $800,000. For their money, they now have a state-of-the-art Media Center not just up to Department of Education standards but one that is exceptionally beautiful.
“Bennett Contractors are pretty good – their gentleman – quite professional,” Bruscino said. With The Observer offices across the street, there was never any yelling, expletives, or excessively loud noises, which can often accompany a construction job site.
An area at the front of the building will be draw students because of the glass-mullioned curtain wall that gives a view over Kearny Avenue. There is stepped seating ala stadium style where the students can either have Socratic style discussions with their teacher or a grand place to read and learn. The lighting is energy efficient throughout the building coming from stylish white fluorescent strips that suspend from the ceiling. Fallon knows how to create quality architecture for the tight budget and Bennett’s workers put the pieces together flawlessly.
“Fallon does studies of what colors are the most soothing and conducive to study,” Bruscino said. The operation director was liaison between the building professionals and the school professionals.
The addition is built over the first floor kindergarten classrooms and by shifting and the existing kindergarten rooms, there are now nine additional spaces – seven classrooms on the first floor and the large Media Center and computer room on the second floor. The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is all new and energy efficient (there are also solar panels on the roof from the previous BOE administration.) The school now has central air conditioning, a fabulous addition, after having to teach and learn in the sweltering heat of summer months.
“The windows will remain closed most of the time because the ventilation system will bring in fresh air continuously. There is more natural lighting and the entire (complex) has new brick face facades and curtain walls,” Bruscino said.
The new windows are ultra-violet light protected, only open a few inches for safety’s sake, and the sensors on all the lighting go on and off depending on motion within the building and the amount of “borrowed” light from the windows. Furthermore, all the furniture in the building is new. The corridors walls are created with smooth, colored cement brick, whose beige tones and aggregates are extra special, especially when coordinated with a unique color system of vinyl composition tiles (VCT,) that delineates space and encourages gaiety.
The refinished courtyard is enclosed to allow of the younger students to be safe and easy to keep an eye on, and as Bruscino said, “To help them with the transition from home to school.
Mrs. Tracy Smegnagliulo teaches in one of the kindergarten classes that face Kearny Avenue. The tables were set up with a colored sheet of construction paper with the name of the color printed on it, so the first-timers could easily find their places. The room is filled with an array of learning and fun toys. As the parents and new students arrived she gently but firmly got the children to sit on a rug of different colored squares and read out the rules regulations for the year. Everyone seemed very excited.
Reitemeyer, who has been with the district for his entire 34-year career, was ecstatic on a number of points because the renovation was so successful.
“They built around state testing activities and concert assemblies without any interruptions,” he said. “And what an environment to come and learn in.”