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Construction of Schools Continues, But Opening Date Remains Uncertain

Candace Braun

Even though the Princeton Regional School District is set to open for classes this week, Interim Superintendent Richard Marasco was still unable to say on Tuesday whether or not the schools would all be opening on Thursday, September 9.

"We're still in a holding pattern. We have to deal with a few site-related issues," he said, mentioning the need to fence off areas of debris and to move construction materials out of the way of students as two tasks that must be completed at all the schools before they can open up.

While faculty were allowed to enter the buildings this past week to ready classrooms, none of the six schools has received the temporary certificate of occupancy that would allow the students to enter the schools on Thursday, said Dr. Marasco: "Right now we remain optimistic but we don't have the deal closed yet."

In a letter posted on the district's website last Friday, Dr. Marasco listed the completion and testing of fire safety systems, striping of parking areas and fires lanes, and various other site-work, such as the installation of sidewalks and windows, as projects that are holding up the schools.

When asked if any one school was behind the others, Dr. Marasco said that construction workers were still installing concrete pavement at Community Park Elementary School on Tuesday.

The interim superintendent said there is still a possibility that if some of the schools are ready to go on Thursday, they will open without the others.

Readying the Schools

During a tour of the district's facilities last Thursday, it was apparent that a lot of clean up still needed to be done at all of the schools; however, the atmosphere among teachers and construction workers was positive.

"Compared to last year there is such a feeling of rejuvenation and optimism," said Jeffrey Graber, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Elementary and middle school principals have positive expectations and feel an overall excitement about the start of school, in contrast to last year, when schools were forced to open one day late.

"I saw this corner turned a few weeks ago ... and I think we're going to get there," said Riverside Principal William Cirullo, adding that unlike last year, clean up of the school is coming along smoothly.

"Our custodians have done an excellent job getting things cleaned," he said.

Littlebrook Principal Anna Kosek agreed: "I'm much more encouraged about where we are at this point."

Dr. Marasco said that through the ups and downs of construction, a constant team effort continues to push the schools forward: "I think everyone has been focused and attentive on getting things done ... The main thing we are focusing on right now is getting the classrooms ready and prepared for students."

At John Witherspoon Middle School, where the B wing will be "out of commission for the year," according to Principal Bill Johnson, other parts of the building are ready for students when they return, including the new pool and gymnasium.

"This is an awesome facility," said Mr. Johnson, adding that while he is enthusiastic about the work that has been done, he anticipates that construction completion won't happen until early spring, rather than January.

"This rivals some high school facilities," said Mr. Graber of the science labs in the new academic wing.

The high school, which has mostly only undergone site work, will concentrate on construction to the additions of the school, so that students can enter and leave the existing facility out of harm's way.

Students will be able to see the new additions to all of the facilities first hand beginning this week, barring any complications.

"I have a good feeling that we'll still open on time," said Lew Goldstein, assistant superintendent for human resources, public information, and community relations.

Dr. Marasco has asked that parents continue to check the school district's website (www2.prs.k12.nj.us) and cable channel for updates on school openings.

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