The bill to fix Belleville’s public schools has come due … and it’s a whopper.
In a Facility Needs Assessment Study submitted to the Belleville Board of Education in October, DiCara Rubino Architects of Wayne figured it would cost nearly $60 million to deal with critical capital plant needs district-wide.
And district Schools Superintendent Richard Tomko calculates that, ultimately, it could reach $80 million “to do major fixes.”
Right now, Tomko said, the district is forming a “stakeholder committee” that will “prioritize our needs for us to go out for a referendum,” possibly as early as March 2016, for at least a partial remedy, and maybe a second before the end of 2016.
The district suffered a shock to its long-neglected school infrastructure this summer when boiler systems at two schools – the Middle School, 279 Washington Ave., and School 8, 183 Union Ave. – failed inspection and had to be replaced by temporary boilers, furnished by C.J. Vanderbeck & Son of Paterson, for $325,950
DiCara Rubino’s report noted that the Middle School’s boilers were 80 years old and were found to be “leaking, resulting in an unsafe operating condition.” School 3’s boilers, 41 years old, had also outlived their useful life, the architects concluded. They estimated it would cost around $2 million to replace the units at both schools.
“Our second biggest problem in the district,” Tomko told The Observer, “is School 4 [at 30 Magnolia Ave.] in Silver Lake.” Built in 1924 and housing kindergarten to third grade, the school’s third floor “is not usable,” he said. “Floors are warping, there are roofing issues and the façade is cracking due to water leaks.”
A building-wide fix-up, including masonry wall repairs, roof work, new boilers, new windows, new bathrooms, new ventilation systems for classrooms, gym and library, updated electrical and fire alarm systems, plus an elevator, would run $7.5 million, according to the architects.
“We have a major crowding issue at the Middle School (built in 1914, rehabilitated in 1936, with an addition built in 1964),” Tomko said, so he’s considering advancing plans for an expansion into the school parking lot. No cost estimate yet.
Compliance with federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is another big issue faced by the district in most of its schools, he said. “And we have five buses in our school fleet which are coming to the end of their life expectancy this year and have to be replaced,” said Tomko. The district is looking at a probable cost of around $500,000 to lease new vehicles, he said.
The 100-plus-page DiCara Rubino report details deficiencies found during a walk-through of all the public schools during summer 2014. Here is a link to that report: http://bit.ly/bellevilleschoolreport.
Many of the school buildings face similar issues: classroom windows that glaze over and can only be partly closed, rusting steel lintels, ineffective ventilation systems, compromised masonry walls, cracked walkways and parking areas, obsolete boilers and HVAC systems and out-ofdate fire alarm and in-school communication systems.
Tomko said he’s willing to field questions from the public about the capital crunch, along with any other issues, at his next Superintendent Forum, slated for Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the high school. He said the first half-hour will be devoted to a discussion of the district’s new Envision Math program for kindergarten to grade 5 introduced in September.
An itemized repair bill, school by school
Here’s a breakdown, school by school, of how much DiCaro Rubino Architects figure it will cost to correct all building-related problems in the Belleville public school district:
• School 3, 230 Jora lemon Ave. (built in 1977) … $4,335,640
• School 4, 30 Magnolia Ave. (1924) … $7,542,400
• School 5, 149 Adelaide St. (1913) … $4,405,800
• School 7, 183 Joralemon Ave. (1921, addition in 1954) … $5,348,750
• School 8, 183 Union Ave. (1924) … $5,644,525
• School 9, 301 Ralph St. (1926) … $3,747,000
• School 10, 527 Belleville Ave. (1928) … $3,091,120
• Middle School, 279 Wash ington Ave. (1914, addition in 1964) … $8,334,100
• High School, 100 Passaic Ave. (1964) … $17,563,800
• Grand Total … $59,791,940