The construction of the new school on Avenue E was delayed for several reasons, including weather. Students scheduled to attend the new school are being temporarily handled at the former Our Lady of Assumption Elementary School on 23rd Street near Kennedy Boulevard, which students have been attending the last two years while the new school was constructed.
School officials had to scramble to handle the delay, partly because books and other materials had already been sent to the newly constructed school in anticipation of classes starting on time, and partly due to the fact that there are three more classes this year than last.
Luckily, according to Doll, unused space in the former Catholic school was converted for educational uses. The new school has already passed most of its inspection, Doll said, anticipating that the city would likely issue a certificate of occupancy on Sept. 11. But since this week is a short week due to several holidays, he said students would be directed to the new school the following Monday, allowing workers to put the finishing touches on the work, although some final details will not be ready yet.
He said the classrooms and other areas students need will be fully operational by the time classes start.
He said scaffolding will be done by that time, and sidewalks finished, with cleaning crews preparing the classrooms ahead of the arrival of students. By waiting until Sept. 17, school workers will be able to get into the classrooms and prepare them over the long holiday weekend so that everything will be set when the students arrive.
In the meantime
For the interim, however, textbooks that were shipped to the new school will be shipped back so that teachers will be able to carry on with instruction.
"All the boxes have been carefully marked so we know which boxes to send back," he said.
Instruction should be unaffected by the change, and Doll said that Principal Janis Lo Re and her staff have worked diligently to make certain everything is in place.
The city has given the okay on plumbing, electrical, fire suppression and elevator operations. There was a short delay due to the need for the gas company to install a property line.
Doll said three days of rain had hindered workers and was the probable reason why the school was not ready in time for the first day.
"We couldn't stop the rain," he said wryly.
The new building
The four-story building is equipped with elevators, solar panels, but no parking.
Doll said municipal parking is within easy walking distance of the school. Because of the location of the school with the front facing on a narrow street, parking has been restricted for a good portion of the block, allowing parents to conveniently drop off their children.
The new school will be equipped with many of the modern features that were installed into other schools in the district, such as solar panels. The 88,000 square foot building will also expand the school district's ability to handle rising student enrollment. Unlike the old School 14, which was dedicated exclusively to the district's gifted and talented programs, the new school will also serve as a community school for other students so that eventually the school will handle students from pre-k to eighth grades.
Other features include a new high-tech auditorium that will also serve as a school cafeteria, a 3,500 square foot gym and a library media center.
The school is designed to handle 455 students.
However, Doll said some outside panels will not be ready by the time the school does open, and that glass for the atrium will require special fitting.
Board of Education President Bill Lawson asked that residents in the area around the new school be invited to the grand opening when it is held to thank them for their patience during the two years of construction.
Doll to explain early retirement packages
Also at the Sept. 5 board meeting, School Business Administrator Clifford Doll told the board members that he would appear before the City Council on Sept. 19 to explain the details of an early retirement buyout that the board approved in 2003, but has taken five years in order to gauge the total cost.
Doll said the board estimated the cost when first implementing the buyout because of the various contingencies in the state-approved buyout.
The idea of an early retirement program is to encourage long-time employees to leave in order to lower the total salaries, by either not replacing the retiring person, or by hiring a new employee at a much lower cost. Doll said the program had three distinct elements that affected the final cost, and could not be predicted until after five years. Some of these incentive packages were offered to people who would not otherwise qualify for full retirement packages or health benefits. Because the school district could not predict the final cost until the five-year time frame expired, they opted to bond for the total cost this year rather than in 2003 when the retirements occurred.
Last month, the City Council questioned the details behind the $9 million bond the board was asking the city to take out to pay for early retirement packages for 59 school employees.
Because Bayonne has an appointed board, the City Council must pass any bonds that it takes out. Doll said this matter was reviewed in 2003 by school and city officials, and that the council's role was to simply pass the bond so that the retirement bills can be paid.
The City Council raised questions about the bond because it came in the midst of a city budget crisis. The city has yet to get $23 million in revenue it needs to balance last year's budget and is faced with another $25 million shortfall this year.