November 21, 2012

Public Schools Fared Well During Storm; Board Hears Valley Road Building Proposal

The focus was on buildings and grounds at last week’s Board of Education meeting.

Superintendent Judy Wilson and other members of the Board reiterated their thanks to the community for passing a September referendum that will support $10.9 million in infrastructure repairs and upgrades to district schools. At the same meeting, which had originally been scheduled for October 30, Ms. Wilson reported that school buildings and playing fields came out of Hurricane Sandy relatively unscathed. The meeting concluded with the presentation by Kip Cherry of a proposed resolution focusing on the disposition of the old section of Valley Road School building.

In her comments about the recent storm, Ms. Wilson described Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi as “tireless, steady, and accurate” in fulfilling his role as “key communicator” between the schools and the public.

The Princeton Public Library was also acknowledged for providing a haven in the days during and after the storm. “Hundreds of our children were sitting on the library floor reading and chatting,” Ms. Wilson reported. “What a sight it was.”

Custodians and maintenance staff, under the leadership of Director of Plant/Operations Gary Weisman, were recognized for putting in as many as 50 hours at a stretch at school buildings over the course of ten to twelve days. “They made a huge difference in our ability to open again,” Ms. Wilson noted.

The only damage sustained by any of the schools was to the roof of the gym at Princeton High School, where repairs are already underway.

Repairing the Valley Road School Building was the subject of Ms. Cherry’s presentation. “I’m not expecting you to vote on it tonight,” she said as she distributed copies of the proposal prepared by by Valley Road Community Center, Inc. “Consider it a draft for your future support.”

Ms. Cherry noted that portions of the building are “in dire need of repair” and “will become an eyesore or safety hazard if not addressed.” The proposal to create a “Valley Road Community Center” is not a new one, but Ms. Cherry reiterated some of its specifics, including the creation of affordable spaces for non-profit theater and arts organizations which will work together in a synergistic environment. Ms. Cherry was careful to note that the purposes of the Center would be consistent with the Princeton Public School’s mission, and that environmental issues would be met in creating it.

The suggestion, this time, that the Board “partner” with the Valley Road Community Center, Inc., may have been a new one. “You haven’t been with us,” Ms. Cherry commented, noting that a partnership would enhance fund-raising opportunities and garner support for the project from the Planning Board and new municipal Council.

Thanking Ms. Cherry for a “thoughtful proposal,” Ms. Wilson reminded everyone about the Board’s “time frame” for considering what to do with the Valley Road building. Since they were committed “to go to work on this issue after the first of this year,” she said, she did not expect “any public discussion on this in next six weeks.”

Ms. Cherry expressed the hope that things would move a little faster, since water is currently leaking into the building. “The building can’t be reused if the water situation is not stabilized,” she noted.

Ms. Wilson responded by saying that Township officials are aware of the water situation.

In non-building related discussions, the Board approved a revised policy that addresses all tobacco use by students. Curriculum changes were made to “align with state requirements,” reported Student Achievement Committee Chair Andrea Spalla, and, at the teachers’ request, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be taught to sixth graders this year.