By Ron Leir
The temporary portable classrooms at Kearny High School are, finally, pretty much ready for occupancy.
But with graduation upcoming on June 22, it doesn’t make much sense to school administrators and construction monitors to start moving students and teachers into the trailers now.
Instead, for the summer months, the trailers will be filled with administrative, secretarial and clerical staffers who work on 12-month-ayear schedules, according to Interim Schools Supt. Ronald Bolandi.
“I’m not going to have anyone working in the high school building this summer while construction is happening,” Bolandi said.
Administrators are hoping to make up for much time lost on the nearly $40 million makeover of the high school, initially delayed due to litigation over the bidding of the general contract; then complicated by a dispute with, and ultimately, replacement of the original architect; and then set back by permit issues with the town’s building department and historical society.
The job – easily one of the biggest school construction projects in the state – involves soundproofing windows and doors against the noise from low-flying aircraft and installation of a new ventilation system – got started in fall 2011 and Board of Education President George King is hopeful the project can be completed by August 2014.
On its website, general contractor Brockwell & Carrington, of Towaco, says “asbestos abatement, demolition, roofing, windows, as well as structural work and complete replacement of the mechanical systems in the building plus a new electric service … while the building remains … occupied and in full operation” make for an “extremely complicated” job.
When work is completed, the building will feature a new 30,000 square foot, six-story addition that will contain 20 new classrooms and upgraded cafeteria and top-floor multipurpose room, all linked to an atrium/skylight. Outside, the building’s brick façade is undergoing a repointing and restoration and the adjacent field house is also being upgraded.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the Federal Aviation Administration are financing 60% of the cost and the state Dept. of Education is picking up the balance.
This summer, school administrators expect giant cranes to set up on the site to lift large steel columns over the top of the school wall and lower them into place into a nowbrick- and-debris-strewn open area formerly occupied by the long-unused swimming pool and old music and art rooms to provide support for the new addition.
By the time classes resume in the fall, administrators anticipate that students and teachers will begin rotating through the leased trailers, which were delivered to their current resting places on the high school’s front lawn along Devon Street about six months ago by the supplier, GE-ModSpace.
Of the 14 classroom trailer units, 10 measure approximately 576 square feet; the dimensions of the other four are a trifle bigger: about 648 square feet, according to estimates by construction manager Steve Williams.
Each classroom unit is designed to accommodate up to about 24 students, said Mark Bruscino, the district’s director of plant operations, whose every waking moment (it would seem) is consumed by attention to the project.
Each trailer has been equipped with two bathrooms, separated by gender, and with a temperature-controlled heating and ventilating system.
As of last week, workers were in the process of installing chalkboards and Smart boards, along with electrical connections for phones and computer equipment, with assists from Public Service Electric & Gas Co. and from the town’s electrical sub-code official who delayed his retirement until he could sign off on this part of the job, Bruscino said.
After discussion with the town’s building department, the contractor was permitted to place each unit atop solid concrete blocks, spaced apart at varying intervals, instead of footings, which, according to Bruscino, “saved us a lot of money.”
The trailers are interconnected by a wooden plank walkway, accessible both by steps up and down and by wooden ramps for those physically impaired. Each classroom unit has two means of egress.
All the units are outfitted with outside alarms.
Heavy canvas covers sections of dirt that had to be excavated and graded to make room for the trailers. “Once the overall project is finished, the trailers will be removed and the grounds returned to normal,” Bruscino said. “That’s all part of the construction project.”
“Our administrators, faculty, staff and students have been fantastic over the course of the work during which there’ve been many disturbances, including fire alarms going off in the high school building during the removal of ceiling tiles, but the Fire Department has been very cooperative with us about that,” Bruscino added.
At all times, he said, “our number one concern has been safety.”
Meanwhile, in neighboring Harrison, the Board of Education has undertaken its own infrastructure improvement project, having done a partial replacement of the roof of Hamilton School and another partial roof replacement at Washington Middle School when students were on Easter break. And a metal roof and façade for Lincoln School was scheduled for late June.
Eight vendors bid on the roof work and their bids were competitive. “They were all within $50,000 of each other,” said Christine Griffin, the district’s school business administrator.
Arch-Concept Construction, of North Haledon, got the Lincoln School job with a low bid of $222,000 and Laumar Roofing Co., of Passaic, was awarded the contracts for Hamilton School, at $242,024, and for Washington School, at $128,000, at the board’s Jan. 12 meeting.
The projects are funded through the school board’s capital budget, she said.
Eventually, the district plans to install solar panels on the roofs as an energy savings measure, according to Harrison Schools Supt. James Doran.