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Construction at High School Is Proceeding on Schedule

Candace Braun

As the new school year approaches, the Princeton Regional Board of Education has reported that the district is in much better shape with construction at Princeton High School than it was at this time last year, when the $32.8 million project was several months behind schedule.

With 40 percent of new construction completed at PHS, dates for the work to finish are holding, which means students can look forward to its completion by the beginning of 2006, according to Facilities Chairman Michael Mostoller.

"Other than being hot, the weather has been good this summer for construction," said Director of Plant/Operations Gary Weisman at an August 3 meeting of the Board's Facilities Committee. Although no new sections of the building will be completed by the September 8 opening of school, the renovated kitchen and cafeteria should be available to students, he added.

Construction workers' main goal at this point is to try to enclose the structures that are currently being built so that all the work can move inside before the cold weather hits.

"We're close to that goal," said Mr. Weisman, mentioning the exterior work that has been taking place on site throughout the summer.

The high school project is part of the district's $82 million plan to renovate all six schools in the district, which began in March 2003. The project at PHS, which was delayed when contractor estimates came in too high, began in the fall of 2003.

All four elementary schools are complete and the district hopes to obtain permanent certificates of occupancy by the next Board meeting on August 23, according to Board President Anne Burns.

Construction at John Witherspoon Middle School is also complete, except for a "punch list of items" that the district hopes to take care of during the school year, she added.

As it stands, the high school's new gymnasium is slated for completion by November 28, followed by the science classrooms on December 20, and the new art wing and auditorium on January 3, 2006.

Residents' Concerns

Also at the Board's facilities meeting on August 3, two residents of Linden Lane, Dayna Norris and Monique Rinere, expressed concerns about the recently expanded parking lot at John Witherspoon Middle School.

The lot is located off of Guyot Avenue, behind the school's gymnasium, and backs to the homes of several Linden Lane residents. It has been redesigned as part of the renovations at the middle school and can now hold approximately 44 cars, according to Board President Burns.

What concerns residents is that car headlights in the reconfigured lot now reflect onto the windows of neighboring residences, which are only shielded by a chain link fence.

The parking lot and the school's proximity to the neighborhood is a nuisance in general, according to Ms. Norris, who has complained about noise coming from the band room this summer. When members of a percussion group were practicing in the parking lot one afternoon, she called the police to complain about the noise.

Superintendent Judy Wilson explained that the students were part of a music camp, and musical practices are one of many activities that often take place at a school.

"We are willing to minimize the impact, but we can't eliminate it," she said.

The district has purchased an 8-foot tongue and groove fence, a "solid" fence which will be installed by the end of the summer to shield some of the noise and light, according to Mr. Weisman.

Another concern of Linden Lane residents is the six shrouded lights that will be placed in the parking lot to light the area after dark. The Board told residents that the lights must be 10 feet high, which will extend above the fencing, because that is the required height for the lights' proper use. The fence cannot be built higher than 8 feet without being considered a structure, said Mr. Weisman, which would lead to other issues for the district.

"It just kicks into a whole other level than just putting a fence up," he said.

Ms. Norris asked the committee if it would consider closing the lot at 5 p.m. every day. "Parking is a huge issue in this town," said Ms. Burns, adding that now that the school has an additional lot for use, staff and parents need to be able to take advantage of the space.

"This can be a 'work in progress'" said Ms. Burns, adding that for now the district will close the lot until the summer is over, and continue to work on installing a fence before the fall.

In other news, both the Borough and Township have granted the district an additional 10 permits each for student parking around Princeton High School, bringing the total to 90 permits that are available for use.

The permit parking system will go into effect again in September, without any changes to last year's plan.

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