The new construction adds 12 new classrooms to the Middle/High School, with nine coming from renovating and converting the auto, electric and woodworking shops that were under-utilized at the school.
Some of the new rooms will house high school English department classrooms. The school also will see new, state-of-the-art vocal and music rooms as well as a 1,000-seat auditorium. Outside the school, the old tennis courts were refurbished, creating five new courts from the four old ones. In addition, a new track will be installed for track and field events and for use during gym class.
"The Secaucus school system is going to benefit on many levels from these additions and improvements," said Mayor Dennis Elwell.
At the ceremony, students took parents and residents around the school for a brief tour of the facility upgrades and additions. One of the "cooler" points was the modernized kitchen and cafeteria, but not so much because it meant an increase in the quality of the food but because of the implementation of an automated "terminal point of sale" where students would order and pay via a digital computer system.
Using a personalized 4-digit PIN number, students pay for their lunch without having to use cash. They enter their number code and their picture and an account balance comes up on the screen. Parents can add to the account balance regularly, eliminating the need for students to carry cash to school. The same system was already implemented in both of Secaucus' elementary schools.
Besides the classrooms, athletic facilities and nifty cafeteria, the school also received the boring, yet necessary, structural upgrades. New roofing and windows were installed and should help keep the school warm and dry this winter.
The total cost of all the renovations and expansion came to $4,590,552. Of that amount, $486,864 came from a grant from the state of New Jersey, with the rest coming from Secaucus taxpayers. The construction work, which began its first processes in 2002, is being done by Bergen Construction. The architect of the new plans is John Veisz.
"With any luck we could have the final expansion of the auditorium completed by May or June," said Superintendent of Schools Gus Scerbo. "The weather has been our best friend in making such rapid progress."
Thanks all around
The afternoon ceremony came complete with performances from the school choir, band and a contingent of future students from the Huber Street elementary school who used sign language to sing two songs in front of an audience of over 100 people.
Mayor Elwell, Superintendent Scerbo, and High School Principal Patrick Impreveduto were among those who gave remarks and well wishes to the students and community members gathered for the occasion. "It was a great day for the school and for the community," said Scerbo. "This is the culmination of years of planning and hard work on the part of many people."
While Scerbo was modest in his remarks, many gave him thanks and praise for his guidance and persistence in advancing the size and resources of the Middle/High School.
Speaking as the Master of Ceremonies, Principal Impreveduto heralded Superintendent Scerbo as visionary and leader.
"I want to thank Mr. Scerbo, for without his vision and direction, this day may not have come," said Impreveduto.
To add to the touching sentiments and building excitement, the school's choir sang a moving rendition of "You Raise Me Up" under the direction of Choir Director Lyle Leeson.
Shortly before the song, Annette Slanina, a student at the high school, read her poem entitled "Education" which highlighted the value and importance of education for today's youths as well as the enthusiasm with which the new school additions are met from the current students.
This year's seniors are hoping for just a few more days of warm winter weather. If workers can seal the new addition off to the cold and get heat inside it before the cold weather sets in, there is a good chance they can get the expansion completed in time for graduation in the spring.