See school opening by 2019

Photo by Ron Leir This municipal lot fronting on Harrison Ave. will give way to a new primary school.
Photo by Ron Leir
This municipal lot fronting on Harrison Ave. will give way to a new primary school.


The Harrison public school district is a step closer to seeing a new primary school built – at no additional cost to the local taxpayers.

The N.J. Schools Development Authority, an independent authority allocated nearly $3 billion by the legislature to fully fund and manage new construction and update school facilities in about 40 districts, has approved the “preliminary charter” for the district’s planned school, according to SDA spokeswoman Edye Maier.

“That includes approval of conceptual plans for a new school building of 65,500 square feet,” Maier said last Friday.

The new school is to rise, just across the street from Washington Middle School, on the south side of Harrison Ave. Much of the development site is now taken up by a municipal parking lot which will be displaced by the project, officials said.

Last Thursday night, the town’s Board of Education approved a resolution ratifying the SDA’s action which was disclosed to the public by the board’s personnel director James Doran.

Doran said the conceptual plans call for construction of a three-story structure that can accommodate a total of 392 children.

It would house two classrooms dedicated to pre-k youngsters, nine classrooms for kindergarteners and nine classrooms for first-graders, he said.

Those numbers were independently confirmed by the SDA spokeswoman.

Doran said the building, to be equipped with an elevator and air-conditioning, would also contain a cafeteria with a capacity for 200 students.

And, according to the SDA’s Maier, there will also be room for a “multi-purpose” space and “support” programs.

Doran said there would also be plenty of outdoor play space, including a separate playground dedicated for the use of pre-schoolers.

The main entrance to the building, which will be from Washington St., will be secured, Doran said, with a glass window and intercom system “and there will be cameras all over.” To provide sufficient space for the school building, play areas, along with staff and visitor parking, Doran said the SDA is acquiring additional private property along S. Fifth St.

Maier said that real estate closings have not yet taken place on those parcels – at 22, 24 and 26 S. Fifth St. – all multifamily homes which will likely be demolished sometime within the next year, school officials said. One building, at 22 S. Fifth, has already been boarded up while the others are still occupied.

Maier said the SDA board voted last week to award a $1,047,685 contract for “early site work” to Ambient Group LLC of Sewell, subject to possible gubernatorial veto.

The old Carbone’s Restaurant formerly stood on the site until it was torn down and replaced by a town parking lot.

An unofficial construction timeline projects an opening date for the new school by September 2019, Doran said.

Maier said the overall development cost, including land acquisition, has been projected at $34.6 million.

Meanwhile, in other Harrison school business, the BOE agreed to advertise for the position of board secretary/ business administrator for the balance of the 2015-2016 school year.

Doran said that the current jobholder, M. Christine Griffin, is retiring April 1 after 14 years in the post.

The BOE will also be soliciting candidates for the position of director of student personnel services (high school guidance director) for the rest of the school year to replace Nick Gregory, who will be retiring in December after more than four decades of service, Doran said.

Additionally, the BOE:

• agreed to retain New  Jersey Realty Advisory Group LLC of Perth Amboy “for appraisal services.” Asked about that, Doran said that because it involved possible property acquisition he couldn’t elaborate.

• contracted with  Ravello’s banquet hall in East Hanover for hosting the annual Harrison High School Class Night on Wednesday, June 15, from 6 to 11 p.m., subject to review by board counsel.

• contracted with  Jostens to provide Class of 2017 yearbooks at a total cost of $6,000, with each student paying $60 to purchase a book, all subject to review by board counsel. • congratulated Hamil ton Intermediate School student David Dias for capturing the first place prize in the Nicky’s Fifth Foundation essay contest sponsored by children’s book author Lisa Funari-Willever. David, who was featured as a character in the author’s latest book, “T-Bone Takes A Stand for Public Schools,” signed copies of the book for board members. Mayor James Fife also offered kudos to the fifth-grader.

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