School-wide improvements to greet students
Changes include new bus lanes, solar panels, renovated football field
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter Staff Writer
Aug 05, 2012 | 4555 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CLARENDON BUS LANES – The Secaucus school district will see a number of changes this summer including two new bus lanes in front of Clarendon Elementary School.
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Secaucus students returning to local schools in September will find a number of visible changes to the buildings and grounds including new solar panels, new buses, bus lanes, and a new football field among other upgrades. The improvements are part of a series of summer enhancements in progress behind-the-scenes as the administration prepares for the upcoming academic school year.

“We decided what was critical and came up with budget estimates,” said Ron Smith, school business administrator, about how the administration determined what enhancements to make this summer. The district allocated about $750,000 for the various projects.

Despite $129,500 in cuts to the $35 million budget by the mayor and council after voters rejected it by a near tie (944 to 943) certain projects were seen as a priority, such as replacing the sod on the high school varsity football field and purchasing 60 new computers.

Renovated home for the Patriots

While the mayor and council had secured a donation of 110,000 square feet of sod from a soccer event at MetLife stadium, heavy rainfall rendered the sod useless and the district ended up paying $47,300 for new sod.

“It rained every day. We couldn’t put it down and it got ruined,” said Smith.

Smith estimates approximately $80,000 was spent in total to put down the new sod and install a new sprinkler system. In addition to the revamped field, the concession stand was renovated, upgrades are underway to the press booth, and the district plans to install four new lights.

Contingency plans are in place to play the first football games at Kane Stadium should any delays occur.

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“We’ll see the difference in the energy bill.” – John “Jack” McStowe

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The school district did not invest to install artificial astro-turf on the football field – which the town did at the Shetik soccer field on County Avenue as a long-term cost-saving measure – because it would cost up to $700,000 according to Smith. However, through shared services the school district uses the soccer and softball fields at Shetik Field. The municipality has also waived the approximately $100,000 fee it charged per year to the school district to maintain all the school grounds and athletic fields.

Move to solar energy

The solar panels being installed at Huber Street Elementary School and the high school are part of a town-wide solar panel installation project funded by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

“Are you going to be able to tell the difference in the heat?” said John “Jack” McStowe, president of the school board about the solar panels, which he said won’t change the heating or the air conditioning, and is a change that will likely go unnoticed by students.

“We’ll see the difference in the energy bill,” noted McStowe.

Smith said the solar panels should provide almost three-quarters of the energy requirement for Huber Street School while the impact on the high school electric bill will be less given the larger size of the building.

Easing up traffic at Clarendon

In September, parents will be able to pull up in front of the Clarendon Elementary School to drop their children off instead of competing with school buses.

“The buses had to stop out on the street [and] it created a traffic hazard,” said Smith.

Two-bus lanes have been carved out of the front lawn of the school in order to ease traffic congestion during the morning drop off and afternoon pick-up.

“The addition at Clarendon is a big plus because it is gonna’ get the buses off the streets,” said McStowe.

The lanes will also help reduce traffic hazards on the dead end streets of 6th and 7th streets as well as Walter Place and Sparman Place.

The bus lane construction was paid for with a $286,000 Department of Transportation Grant given to the town. The school contributed $25,000 toward the project.

The district has also purchased two 24-passenger, and one 54-passenger bus, with the expectation that costs will be covered by Hartz Mountain and Xchange developers’ contributions.

Renovated computer labs

Some repairs will go unnoticed by students, according to McStowe such as painted classrooms, a new hot water heater, and the installment of security cameras and secured electronic doorways. However, some students are in for cooler rooms with new air conditioners that are going into the special education classrooms, while high school students will get to break-in 60 new computers in two renovated computer labs. Smith said the computer room renovations cost the district $100,000.

While such physical upgrades make for a better school experience for students, the major project on the horizon is the expansion of the middle school. A committee of school administrators, local officials, and the school board will meet this week to discuss an architect’s plans to accommodate sixth graders at the middle school in the future, and create a real separation between the high school and middle school students while also expanding upon the gymnasium, the media center, and the cafeteria.

Check next week’s of Secaucus Reporter for more on the middle school expansion plans.

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at afernandez@hudsonreporter.com.

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