New junior high inching closer

LYNDHURST –

The Lyndhurst Board of Education has moved a step closer toward the construction of a new junior high school for grades 7, 8 and 9 by approving the schematic plans for the project.

BOE action came at a special meeting last Wednesday, Aug. 2, following a power-point presentation by Joseph DiCara, principal of the DiCara Rubino architectural firm of Wayne.

Now those plans go the Bergen County superintendent of schools, state Department of Education and township Planning Board for review.

DiCara said he expected construction bids would be received by November or December 2017 and a contract to build would be awarded several weeks afterward.

Once a contract is in place, he said, “we’re looking at a 24-month window” for completion of the project and actual occupancy, which is projected for September 2020.

The board formally agreed to transfer the property occupied by the century-plus-old Lincoln Elementary School at 281 Ridge Road – designated as an “area in need of redevelopment” – to the township.

In turn, the township has agreed to compensate the BOE for the Lincoln School property through revenues generated by redevelopment of the land. However, Lincoln School shall remain in operation until a certificate of occupancy has been issued for the new junior high.

In November 2016, Lyndhurst voters approved a referendum that calls for spending up to $19.8 million on physical improvements to Columbus, Franklin, Roosevelt and Washington elementary schools and to Lyndhurst High School for which the state will pay nearly $4.3 million in debt service.

The township has agreed to pay for the design and construction costs associated with the high school improvements, estimated at about $4.3 million, in addition to design and construction of the junior high project, estimated at $50 million.

That $50 million projection could go higher “because of the skating rink relocation and site topography which said costs shall be paid by the township, if necessary,” according to the agreement approved by the BOE.

For all schools included in the planned improvement projects, the BOE has until June 1, 2018, to advise the township of the projected “distribution of the school student population by grade and the method used by students traveling from home to school … with a specific focus on the younger children in grades K to 6. (The BOE has mentioned the possibility of redistricting.)

The junior high building is earmarked for the area known as Matera Field, bordered roughly by Marin Ave., Page Ave., Third St. and residential properties off Ridge Road, with the main vehicular entrance from Page, possibly via Fourth St.

A secondary access to the site via Ridge Road is being envisioned primarily, if not exclusively, for emergency use, at the township’s discretion, according to DiCara.

The proposed interior access road would loop around the site, with separate routes planned to separate school bus and visitor traffic, DiCara said.

He said the school is being designed for up to 650 students, but additional classrooms could be accommodated if needed.

There would be multiple structures on the campus, including the main entrance housingadministration and a nurse’s office; next, a 700-seat auditorium with two music rooms, an art room, kiln and storage; followed by a cafeteria and food prep area set up like a food court; a gymnasium big enough to contain one full-size basketball court, with a curtain-separated area that can accommodate two half-courts and/or two physical education sessions at the same time and locker rooms, auxiliary gym and weight room; a 3-story academic section with classrooms on each floor, STEM labs and “common areas” adaptable to student interaction and equipped with large video screens; and, on the Third St. side of the campus, athletic fields for online skating and combination soccer/lacrosse.

All facilities are designed to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant, DiCara said.

In a separate development, the BOE approved an interlocal services agreement with the township under which these conditions apply through Aug. 31, 2022:

The BOE will continue to lease the Municipal Pool, Community School, Memorial Campus and BOE offices to the township for $350,000 annually and will continue to have the use of 601 Riverside Ave.

The township will pay the BOE $25,000 a year for services provided under the Before/After School Care program, with the township providing busing between school buildings.

The township will pay for a supervisor and staff to operate the summer day camp at Lyndhurst High School and the BOE shall bus participants between school buildings.

For the township’s use of school gyms, the BOE will provide at least one custodian and one watchperson and custodial supplies.

The township is permitted the use of BOE fields. For Recreation Football’s use of the high school field, from Aug. 1 to Nov. 1, Monday to Friday, the BOE will provide custodians for cleanup. The township is responsible for cleanup on weekends during the same time period.

The BOE may use township recreation fields and the township will provide at least one police officer at its expense during BOE games and is responsible for cleanup.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.