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District Officials Still Hopeful Schools Will Open on Time

Candace Braun

With one week left before the Princeton Regional Schools open for the school year, only two of the six schools have received certificates of occupancy allowing students and faculty to enter the buildings.

While the district's website originally stated that school faculty would be able to enter buildings as early as August 23, only Community Park and Johnson Park Elementary Schools currently have their certificates of occupancy, and faculty members at the other schools must contact their principals before entering the buildings to prepare classrooms this week, Interim Superintendent Richard Marasco said yesterday.

"We're playing it by ear and asking people to be patient," he said.

At the August 24 Board meeting, Board President Anne Burns said she was confidant the schools would open on time. However, it appears that all the work that was scheduled for completion will not be done before the school year starts, according to a note to Princeton parents and faculty on the district's website.

"Some final aspects of construction and attention to 'punch list' items in the elementary schools will occur while the schools are in session," reads the letter from Dr. Marasco.

Facilities chairman Michael Mostoller said that while most of the facilities should be ready in time, "there will be some rooms that will go online after [school opens]."

At John Witherspoon Middle School, construction of the academic wing and swimming pool is almost complete, and the district is performing preliminary testing of the pool's operating system, along with developing a pool management plan, said Dr. Marasco.

At Princeton High School, where visible construction work has been underway only in recent months and has been going slowly, "some interior work will be completed prior to the opening," but "the major effort after September 9 will shift to the planned additions, so as to minimize any impact to the regular school day," according to the interim superintendent.

In order to avoid the problems that were evident at the elementary schools during the previous school year, the district is performing air tests inside the buildings, as well as testing for organic compounds, asbestos, and "nuisance dust," said Facilities Director Gary Weisman. An outside consultant will also perform a walk-through of each of the buildings prior to the September 9 opening, he said.

"Things are continuing to go well," said Dr. Marasco on Tuesday. "We got a lot of work done over the weekend."

The Board recently approved "change orders" for estimated construction costs at the schools in the following amounts: $30,848 for Community Park and Johnson Park Elementary Schools; $88,715 for Littlebrook and Riverside Elementary Schools; $90,469 for John Witherspoon Middle School; and $197,614 for Princeton High School.

New furnishings for the schools were ordered this summer and should be arriving soon, said Board Secretary Stephanie Kennedy at last week's Board meeting.

In addition, 21 new staff members have been hired for the coming school year, and will be trained during staff orientation this week, said Lew Goldstein, assistant superintendent for human resources, public information, and community relations. He added that training for substitute teachers will take place on September 8, and development training for teachers will take place on September 7 and 8.

The district's new kindergarten program, made possible by a $108,000 grant from the state, will be held at Littlebrook Elementary School this school year. For more information on the program, contact Assistant Superintendent Jeff Graber at (609) 806-4203.

For updated information on school construction and completion dates, visit the district's website at www2.prs.k12.nj.us.

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