Local and state officials attended a groundbreaking Tuesday for the new Early Childhood Center at 22nd Street and Kennedy Boulevard. It will be the third of nine new or refurbished schools that are on the city's "to do" list, all of which were mandated by the state, although this is only the city Board of Education's second actual collaboration with the SCC.
This past fall, Union City heralded the arrival of Jose Marti Middle School, also part of that mandate. As an Abbot "special needs" School District, Union City is required to provide pre-school education to any resident who requests it. Presently the district serves some 1,500 pre-schoolers with programs from public and private community providers, which operate for about 10 hours a day, 245 days a year at no cost to the families.
"We are committed to providing the very best pre-K programs, and this new school will go a long way toward helping the young children of Union City begin their education in the best setting possible," said Stanley Sanger, Union City superintendent of schools.
In attendance were Mayor Brian Stack and the Union City Board of Commissioners, as well as the members of the Union City Board of Education and the SCC.
The $13 million center is funded entirely by the NJSCC, and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2006. "There is no money better spent than when it's spent on children," Stack said. "This is something that will pay off over and over again."
A place for tots
The new Early Childhood Center is a 38,000 square foot facility, that will boast a nautical themed design.
"We knew from the very beginning that we wanted to create a very playful environment for the students, so we went with a nautical theme and that was the wish of the Board of Education," said John Capazzi, the principal architect for the Early Childhood Center.
Lighthouse structures and a fish tank will be part of the center's facilities, which will accommodate between 243 and 270 pre-school students.
The school will include central air conditioning, faculty parking, a security system, and an acoustically treated environment. It will also comply with the Americans with Disability Act.
"This will be another quality edition, and a beneficial part of what will take the youth of Union City into the next decade," said Sanger. "We are talking about smaller class sizes and heated classroom floors; there are so many amenities and plans for this facility."
There will be about 18 general classrooms with toilet facilities in each room, a 3,600 square foot playground area, child development room, and heated classroom floors. Each classroom will also come equipped with computer stations.
In addition to the regular classrooms, there will also be 1,500 square foot kitchen, 2,800 square foot multi-purpose room, a laundry room, and 1,000 square foot health screening center, which will also be made available to the public.
"This will be our third new school, and we have worked together to make services available not only to the students, but to the entire community," said Stack. "This new health screening center, as well as a 2,800 square foot multi-purpose room, will make this school a centerpoint of community activity."
Mike L. Rafat, the regional director of design and construction for the SCC, said, "We're very excited to be a part of this groundbreaking; this is the next milestone to the future of Union City. This is a $13 million project, but that includes site work such as demolition and construction."
Bumps in the road
Over the last year, the futures of some of the SCC's projects around NJ have been called into question due to seemingly diminishing funds, and because some Union City school projects may displace long-time residents' homes.
However, projects are still moving ahead.
According to a pamphlet provided by the Union City Board of Education, "Union City's Abbott Preschool Program is a collaboration of private community providers and the district's public schools, to improve the quality and consistency of early childhood education."
The project will take approximately 18 months to fully complete, and Capazzi's architectural firm is also currently working on designs for No. 3 Columbus School and for the upcoming demolition of Roosevelt Stadium, which will become the new Emerson High School.