Jr. High concept unveiled to public

Photos by Ron Leir Consultants Stanley Puszcz of CP Engineers (l.) and James Determan Jr. of Hord / Coplan / Macht outline plans for new junior high school, a mockup of which was displayed
Photos by Ron Leir
Consultants Stanley Puszcz of CP Engineers (l.) and James Determan Jr. of Hord / Coplan /Macht outline plans for new junior high school, a mockup of which was displayed


Township residents got their first look last week at a preliminary “design concept” for the new junior high school that will be built on Matera Field.

The plan, amplified by a replica model and colorful renderings displayed on wall-to- wall charts, had something for every taste, including:

• Classrooms with New York sightlines and lots of light exposure.

• Glass-enclosed hallway “learning centers” where students can interact on cushy seats, work on smartboards and take in views of New York.

• An 850-seat combination auditorium/ state-of-the-art theater.

• A culinary arts classroom and a cafeteria where food will be cooked for all schools.

• A full-size basketball court with room for two full-size cross courts and a 1,000- seat outdoor stadium for football and soccer that would be built into the 40-foot slope separating the upper and lower plateaus of the Matera Field site.

With all those features, it certainly won’t come cheap.

Depending on the total square footage allotted and whether all the amenities fall into place, the price tag for the new school – targeted for grades 7, 8 and 9 – could range from $45 million to $65 million, according to Stanley Puszcz of Sparta-based CP Engineers & Architecture, one of the consultants working on the project.

James Determan Jr. of Hord/ Coplan/Macht, a Baltimore consultant, said that final design figures to take a year to complete and construction is pegged at 18 to 24 months so, by that timetable, the new facility should be ready to accept students by September 2019.

However, township CFO Robert Benecke, who is serving as a fiscal adviser on the project, cautioned that final buildout could take a bit longer – possibly up to 36 months – because of new state mandates for school construction.

Images courtesy Hord / Coplan / Macht Renderings of upgraded classrooms proposed for Lyndhurst High School
Images courtesy Hord / Coplan / Macht
Renderings of upgraded classrooms proposed for Lyndhurst High School

Once the final numbers are arrived at, it would fall to the township Board of Commissioners to issue bonds for the project because it is being done as part of a township-sanctioned redevelopment plan whose linchpin is the condemnation of the 130-yearold Lincoln Elementary School at Valley Brook Ave. and Ridge Road.

The commissioners and Planning Board went along with that plan, said Benecke, “on the condition of building another school of equal value” – that being the new junior high which is expected to relieve some of the overcrowding at other schools in the district.

On top of this outlay, the Board of Education will be seeking residents’ approval of a November school referendum – estimated at $10 million – to pay for improvements at Lyndhurst High School and elementary schools. (In recent years, two previous referenda, one for a new middle school and a follow-up one for reconfiguring various schools, were both rejected.)

Last week, residents were also treated to the consultants’ vision of what some of the proposed improvements at the high school could look like, such as:

“Active learning” classrooms with round tables (instead of desks) for collaborative group study and wall-to-wall smartboards.

A “health careers” classroom with hospital-like beds and mannequins.

STEM (Science/ Technology/ Engineering/Math) classrooms for designing and assembling robots and other devices.

A “Learning Commons” library featuring rows of computers for internet research, solo study carrels and glass-enclosed group study cubicles.

If the November referendum passes, then the work at the high school – and at the elementary schools – would follow occupancy of the junior high, Determan said.

High School Principal Shauna DeMarco (and newly designated assistant superintendent) said the changes “are going to allow us to departmentalize in spaces designed for the subjects we’re teaching.”

She said that the district and the consultants, with an aim of “accommodating as many as students as possible” with bus transportation to the junior high, were looking at setting up designated bus pickup sites.

For those students driven by parents to and from the school, Determan said that the school may provide “dropoff loops” that could accommodate as many as 30 vehicles at a time.

DeMarco’s enthusiasm was echoed by Interim Superintendent James Corino who told the audience that, “Lyndhurst is overdue for a futuristic education. You should look at these improvements not as an expense but as an investment to make the township a more desirable place, protecting the integrity of our students and the community at large.”

Avoiding that investment, Benecke said, would be a huge mistake for the Lyndhurst community because local property values are, without question, tied to the success of a local school system. And while there will be future financial obligations from the project, he said it would be “doable,” particularly when the township will be saving $3.1 million a year by significantly paying down much of the EnCap debt, ending its $854,000 payment previously required under the meadowlands tax sharing mandate and eliminating the $250,000 Memorial School lease.

Township Public Safety Commissioner John Montillo added his support for the junior high project, saying: “This is something we absolutely, desperately need.”

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