June 3, 2015

 

SEATS ON THE STREET: At the new “Princeton Parklet” installed in front of Small World Coffee’s Witherspoon Street locale last week, the cafe’s owner Jessica Durrie, right, and the Arts Council of Princeton’s Maria Evans, left, helped prepare the temporary urban oasis for the crowds arriving to celebrate Princeton University’s Reunions.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

SEATS ON THE STREET: At the new “Princeton Parklet” installed in front of Small World Coffee’s Witherspoon Street locale last week, the cafe’s owner Jessica Durrie, right, and the Arts Council of Princeton’s Maria Evans, left, helped prepare the temporary urban oasis for the crowds arriving to celebrate Princeton University’s Reunions. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

With parking spaces a precious commodity in Princeton, one might expect the temporary removal of two spots from a prime location on Witherspoon Street to inspire a certain amount of grumbling. But a rustic, Adirondack-style seating platform that has materialized in front of Small World Coffee seems to be doing just the opposite.

During Princeton University’s Reunions last weekend, alumni and locals found temporary respite from the heat and the crowds at this public “parklet.” They relaxed on the benches and sipped drinks under a row of hanging plants. Invited to feed the two parking meters to show support for future examples of this kind of public art, they dug into their pockets.

A joint effort of the municipality, the Arts Council of Princeton, local architect Kirsten Thoft, landscape artist Peter Soderman, George Akers of Material Design Build, and other volunteers, the parklet will be in place from two to four months. The project follows along the lines of other “street seats” in San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, and Philadelphia. The Witherspoon Street parklet is the first of its kind in Princeton, though a miniature version was briefly installed last summer.

While collaborators admit to some grousing from the public over the loss of two parking spaces, those complaints are in the minority so far. “I don’t have official numbers of the meter collection, but anecdotally I’ve checked every time I’m there, and the meter has always been full,” said Mayor Liz Lempert. “The response has been fantastic. The artists and architects who built it did a magical job. You can see people break into a smile when they see it.”

Maria Evans, artistic director of the Arts Council of Princeton, said she has heard “a little bit of complaining. Its people’s knee-jerk reaction, where they say ‘I can’t believe you took a parking space’ but then they say ‘But it’s really cool, I can live with that.’ From what’s been on Twitter and Facebook, the general public’s opinion is at least 95 percent positive.”

It was Ms. Lempert who suggested the idea for the parklet to Jeff Nathanson, executive director of the Arts Council. After being put on the back burner for a while, the concept was revisited when Ms. Evans invited Ms. Durrie and her husband, Mr. Akers, over for dinner one night. “I knew if I could get her support as a merchant that the Small World location would be great for the maiden voyage,” Ms. Evans recalled. “They were on board. He’s a master carpenter and terrific builder, and I knew he’d build a great structure. Then we talked to Peter Soderman, and he was completely in.”

Ms. Evans met with Princeton Planning Director Lee Solow, who helped coordinate the project. “He was terrific. He told me we needed an architect and that’s where Kirsten Thoft got involved. All of these people worked pro bono. The town paid for materials, but everything else was for free. Lots of favors were used up.”

By the time Ms. Thoft came on board, ideas for the design of the parklet were already in place. “They wanted something temporary, but that could be re-used,” she said. “My involvement was to make sure everyone was on the same page regarding safety, ADA compliance, and those kinds of concerns. So it was not about my personal vision. And these things are a large part of what an architect does, anyway.”

But Ms. Thoft likes the design, and compares the project to the pop-up beach that appears during summers along the Seine in Paris. “I think it’s part of a continuum of public park spaces,” she said. “It can be re-used and turned into something else, which was part of the intention. These things are becoming more popular.”

The parklet was built at the firehouse on Harrison Street. “After we had Kirsten’s drawings, we started parceling out the work,” said Ms. Evans. “The Public Works department made the platforms, and George built it at the firehouse a few weeks ahead. A colleague and I stained the whole thing. It was a coming together of everybody’s dedication to get the thing done in time for Reunions, which Jessica wanted.”

The project was installed last Saturday, and a formal dedication will take place tomorrow (Thursday) at 5 p.m.

Along with the benches and tree-trunk tables that are under an overhang, there is additional seating outside the overhang. Ferns in tree-trunk planters and succulents planted in chunks of logs are part of the verdant setting. Ms. Evans is adding pieces of art to the parklet. “I will invite artists who can do work that is visible from all sides and weatherproof,” she said. “It could really be a fun thing.”

Also planned is a system for parking bikes and a dog hitching post. As for the idea of asking the public to fund future public art projects by feeding the meters, that came from an unexpected source. “I teach art at Stuart Country Day School, and my students came up with the idea of not closing the meters,” Ms. Evans said. “So now, the sculptor Bob Evans is making a Venus flytrap shell to go on the meters, so people will have fun feeding them. It’s been incredible the way people are putting money in.”

Ms. Evans hopes future parklets will draw other artists, architects, and designers with new ideas. “Like Jazams — wouldn’t it be fun to make it an extension of the toy store?” she asked. “I think maybe with the merchants it will change from space to space. We need to go forward and figure out how to fund this thing in the future.”

The D&R Greenway Land Trust’s annual Down To Earth Ball will take place this Saturday, June 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the barn complex, St. Michael’s Farm Preserve in Hopewell.

The event celebrates the region’s farm heritage, while supporting the mission of D&R Greenway, with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner and dancing. Tickets cost $125 per person and sponsorships are available.

“This night is planned to celebrate our farming heritage and the bounty of the land,” says D&R Greenway Land Trust President & CEO Linda Mead.

Guests are encouraged to “dress west” and wear comfortable kick-up-your-heels shoes. Enjoy the tunes of the Tone Rangers Band, dance around the bonfire, test your luck with barnyard games, march in a farm parade, gaze at the stars, and savor the fresh air!

D&R Greenway’s mission is to preserve and care for land and inspire a conservation ethic, now and for the future. Preserving farms creates an agricultural economy that offers fresh, healthy local food. This year’s Down To Earth Ball celebrates keeping the garden in Garden State, and supporters who have preserved the farms on which farmers grow our food.

As of May 27, in-kind donations of food and other services have been offered by Blue Moon Acres Farm Market, Brothers Moon, Brick Farm Market/Double Brook Farm, Camden Bag & Paper Co., Cherry Grove Farm, D’Angelo Italian Market, Griggstown Farm, Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet, McCaffrey’s Princeton, Tasha O’ Neill Photography, Pennington Quality Market, Sowsians Landscapes, and photographers Mary Michaels, Richard Grant, and Sheila and Carl Geisler.

For more information, call (609) 924-4646 or email Deb Kilmer at dkilmer@drgreenway.org; visit: www.drgreenway.org.

Music Aeolus

Composed of Alan Richardson — cello, Nicholas Tavani and Rachel Shapiro — violin, and Gregory Luce — viola, the Aeolus Quartet, currently the Graduate Resident String Quartet at the Juilliard School, will perform a free concert at Richardson Auditorium on Thursday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m.

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Gallery 14 member Charles Miller is showing a series of photographic works, such as his “Chapel Yard,” shown here, in the Goodkind Gallery at Gallery 14 in Hopewell through June 28. “The Emerald Island has a strong attraction to all travelers,” said the photographer. “It is known for it’s beautiful scenery and quirky style.” The photographs were taken on a recent visit and capture the spirit of the land and its people with a mix of the contemporary and the historic. Work by Lambertville photographer Jim Amon will also be on display in the main gallery exhibition, “Beauty is the Hook.” Gallery 14 is located at 14 Mercer Street in Hopewell. Hours are weekends, noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call (609) 333-8511, or visit: http://photogallery14.com.

EisgruberPersistent rain on Monday moved Princeton University’s annual Class Day ceremony from outside to inside the University Chapel. But despite Tuesday morning’s raw weather, the University held its 268th Commencement ceremony on the green in front of historic Nassau Hall.

A total of 1,268 seniors received undergraduate degrees, while 885 graduate students were awarded advanced degrees on the lawn, the site of the University’s Commencement exercises since 1922. University President Christopher L. Eisgruber presided over the event. Due to the inclement weather, he delivered an abridged version of his address. The full text of his talk is as follows:

In a few minutes, all of you will march through FitzRandolph Gate as newly minted graduates of this University. Before you do so, however, it is my pleasure, and my privilege, to say a few words to you about the path that lies ahead.

For many Princetonians, the FitzRandolph Gate has an almost metaphysical significance. The gate marks not simply the edge of the campus, but the border between two worlds: on the one side, what students fondly С or sometimes not so fondly С call the “orange bubble,” a beautiful campus blessed with extraordinary resources, dazzling talent, and heartfelt friendships; and, on the other side, a turbulent world of practical difficulties, ranging from awesome global challenges to mundane personal problems С such as finding an apartment and paying the rent.

But of course the barrier between the campus and the world is not, and has never been, so sharp as the metaphor of the orange bubble would suggest. The world finds its way through the bubble, affecting life on our campus in myriad ways. Princeton, in turn, seeks to project its learning and leadership into the worldСto be, as Woodrow Wilson of the Great Class of 1879 said, “Princeton in the nation’s service,” and, as Sonia Sotomayor of the Great Class of 1976 said just last year, “Princeton in the service of humanity.”

We saw visible and poignant expression of those connections this year,  including emotional campus protests demanding justice for black men and women in America. These student-led actions carried forward a tradition of political engagement on this campus that is more than two centuries old — a tradition that expressed Princeton’s connections to the world beyond FitzRandolph Gate long before the gate itself ever existed. Indeed, on the day when the Class of 1765 graduated almost exactly 250 years ago from what was then called the College of New Jersey, its members protested British tax policy by resolving to purchase only American-made clothing.

In the years that followed, the connections between Princeton and the outside world manifested themselves in a variety of ways, sometimes loud and noisy, sometimes almost invisible. In 1938, for example, the New York Times reported that although students and faculty earlier in the week protested the University’s decision to award an honorary degree to New Jersey Governor Arthur Harry Moore, the commencement ceremonies on June 21 were placid and beautiful.

According to the Times, more than 2,000 people gathered that day in front of Nassau Hall while “sunshine splashed through tall trees” and “orange canvas across the front of the platform hid all but the ears of the great bronze tigers that have kept guard there for 29 of the building’s 181 years.” The orange bubble indeed! While gentle sunlight washed over orange canvas at Nassau Hall, storm clouds gathered in Asia and Europe, where events would soon plunge the world into a horrific war and unleash one of history’s most awful genocides.

The Times that year listed Princeton’s undergraduate prizewinners in astonishing detail — naming not only the Pyne Honor Prize winner but also more obscure honorees, such as the recipient of the Leroy Gifford Kellogg Cup for Sportsmanship, Play and Influence in Freshman Baseball. The article, however, said not a word about Princeton’s graduate degree recipients. Readers would therefore have no clue that among the 52 students receiving doctoral degrees that afternoon was a young English mathematician named Alan Mathison Turing.

And had they known, they probably would not have cared. Dr. Turing’s thesis was titled “Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals.” It is amusing to speculate about how Governor Moore might have reacted if, after accepting his honorary degree, he had been introduced to the English doctoral student. Perhaps the governor would have complained, as politicians often do today, that Princeton was wasting its money by sponsoring dissertations on abstract topics such as “Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals,” rather than on more practical subjects with immediate application.

Governor Moore might have been surprised to discover that, even while completing some of the most celebrated doctoral research in the history of this University, the brilliant young mathematician could not ignore the world beyond the FitzRandolph Gate. Disturbed by the prospect of war in Europe, Turing began experimenting at Princeton with the construction of novel machines that might be used to encrypt information. A fellow graduate student gave him access to the physics department’s machine shop and taught him to use a lathe.

In lighter moments, Turing and his friends in the Graduate College constructed treasure hunts based on elaborate puzzles. One of Turing’s fellow graduate students, Shaun Wylie, was so clever at these games that Turing recruited him to help with the project that occupied him after his return to England. As has happened so many times before Turing and after him, a friendship formed in moments of leisure during tranquil times at Princeton endured and mattered in more urgent circumstances beyond its gates.

Those of you who made it far enough from the orange bubble to get to a movie theater will know something about Turing’s post-Princeton project. Turing’s story is told in The Imitation Game, which, I have to say, must be the first Hollywood blockbuster ever based on a book written by a University of Oxford mathematician about a Princeton University graduate school alumnus and published by the Princeton University Press.

Turing’s genius made him indispensable to the war effort as a code-breaker — an assignment he shared, as it happens, with one of today’s honorary degree recipients, John Paul Stevens, who was awarded a Bronze Star for breaking Japanese codes. Turing led the team that decrypted the Enigma cypher. It is perhaps an exaggeration, but if so only a mild one, to say that this brilliant doctoral student’s work both saved civilization from the Nazis and laid the conceptual foundation for the digital revolution. Not bad for a graduate student working on esoteric topics in theoretical mathematics.

If you have seen The Imitation Game, you also know that the exterior world impinged on Alan Turing’s life within the orange bubble in another, exceedingly cruel way by forcing him to repress his sexual identity. These injustices led eventually to a criminal conviction and suicide at the age of 41. Turing’s biographer, Andrew Hodges, writes that the young mathematician’s social life at Princeton was “a charade. Like any homosexual man [of the time], he was living an imitation game.” Forced to seek acceptance “as a person that he was not …. [H]is autonomous selfhood [was] compromised and infringed.”

Sixty-one years after Turing’s death, we live in a more tolerant society. Indeed, thanks partly to legal precedents established by today’s honorary degree recipients John Paul Stevens and Deborah Poritz, we may hope that we can soon see a day when all Americans can express their sexual identities freely and without fear of discrimination or violence.

Yet, though the world you enter today is far different from the one that greeted Alan Turing in 1938, your world, too, is fraught with disturbing challenges. Human activity strains the environment. Violence plagues many parts of the planet. Inequality is near an all-time high in many countries, including this one.

Over the past year, multiple police killings of black men have seared our nation in what the president of the United States has called a “slow-rolling crisis.” The crisis that we face today is only the latest iteration of a challenge embedded deeply within the history and the soul of the American nation. From its inception, the diversity of this nation challenged its leaders and tested the limits of republican governance.

At the time of the country’s founding, most political theorists and many Americans believed that democracies could flourish only if they were small and homogenous. James Madison of the Class of 1771, who lived and studied in Nassau Hall, famously argued that a large and diverse republic could protect liberty more effectively than a small one. His tenth Federalist Paper became a classic of political science and a foundational document in American history. But Madison’s solution was at best a partial one, for he never squarely confronted the great injustice of slavery or the challenge of racial inequality.

Two hundred and twelve years after James Madison earned his undergraduate degree, the Association of Black Princeton Alumni gave to this University a bust of Frederick Douglass. The bust now sits adjacent to this courtyard in Stanhope Hall, the University’s third oldest building, which has in recent years been the home of Princeton’s Center for African American Studies and which yesterday became, by unanimous vote of Princeton’s Board of Trustees, the home of this University’s Department of African American Studies.

Douglass expressed America’s aspirations as passionately and emphatically as anyone. He insisted, in the face of slavery and inequality and all of the manifest flaws in American politics, that the Constitution was rightly interpreted to guarantee the rights and liberties of all people. In a speech given in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1860, he said,

“The Constitution says: ‘We the people’ … not we the white people, not we the citizens, not we the privileged class, not we the high, not we the low, not we of English extraction, not we of French or of Scotch extraction, but ‘we the people.’”

Douglass dared to express an utterly audacious dream — the dream that all of us, despite our differences and our conflicts and our sins against one another, could come together as one people, united by a commitment to liberty. His vision was beautiful and profound and undaunted by the ugly circumstances of his time.

America has since its birth been a land of diversity and a land of audacious dreamers. It has benefited again and again from men and women who shared, against all odds, the dream that we might transcend our differences and yet be one people. It has benefited, too, from individuals who dared to believe that scholarship and education could generate the progress, the discoveries and the leaders who will help to solve our most difficult problems in our darkest hours.

When you march out FitzRandolph Gate a few moments from now, you will march into a world that urgently requires your commitment to dream audaciously. We hear a great deal these days about the need for what is practical, functional and utilitarian. I understand that. You really do have to find apartments and you do — you most certainly do — have to pay the rent. But I hope you will also find time to pursue ideals that are beautiful and profound, not just for their own sake, but because, as Alan Turing and Frederick Douglass remind us in their different ways, the beautiful and the profound are sometimes far more powerful and beneficial than all the things that the conventional world praises in the name of pragmatic utility.

And so it is with an eye toward the beautiful and the profound that we gather here today, bursting with joy amidst the turmoil of the outside world, to congratulate you on your achievements and wish you well as you begin your journeys beyond this campus. My colleagues and I on the faculty and in the administration, and my fellow alumni and trustees, hope you will carry the spirit of Princeton into the world, and we look forward to welcoming you back to Princeton whenever you return. We feel great confidence in your ability to meet the challenges that lie ahead, for on this special and auspicious day, you — our graduate students and our undergraduate seniors — are now, and shall be forever into the future, Princeton University’s Great Class of 2015.

Congratulations and best wishes!

Lance Liverman

Lance Liverman

In unofficial results from Tuesday’s primary election, Princeton citizens cast 530 votes in favor of current Council member Lance Liverman and 537 for current Council member Heather Howard. Both Democrats, Mr. Liverman and Ms. Howard ran unopposed.

On the Republican side, Kelly DiTosto and Lynn Lu Irving also ran unopposed for Council seats. Ms. DiTosto earned 128 votes, while Ms. Irving got 134.

Mr. Liverman was a member of the Princeton Township Committee prior to the consolidation of Princeton Borough and Township in 2013. He has been active on the Affordable Housing Board, the Corner House Board, the Housing Authority, the Personnel Committee, the Princeton Alcohol & Drug Alliance, the town’s Public Safety Committee where he serves as Fire Commissioner, and the Affordable Housing Task Force.

Ms. Howard, on Borough Council before consolidation, serves as Police Commissioner on the Public Safety Committee, and is also on the town’s Board of Health, Human Services Commission, the Legal Expense Committee, the Local Emergency Planning Committee, and the Pedestrian & Bike Advisory Committee.

Ms. DiTosto and Ms. Irving filed in March to run as Republicans in the election for Princeton Council. Ms. DiTosto is a longtime Princeton resident whose children have attended Princeton public schools. She works in the accounting field.

Ms. Irving is a licensed real estate agent who was previously a pre-school teacher. A native of China and a local resident for more than 25 years, she has two children who are Princeton High School graduates and another who still attends.

Other numbers reported in the primary included 562 votes for Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. In the 16th District for General Assembly, there were 564 votes for Democrats Andrew Zwicker and 521 for Maureen Vella. On the Republican side, there were 131 votes for Jack Ciattarelli and 127 for Donna Simon.

The winners will face off in the November elections.

Threats made in recent weeks to local schools, the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, Quaker Bridge Mall, a private business and residence have local law enforcement scrambling to determine who is behind these pre-recorded messages. While each case so far has been deemed a hoax, police are taking no chances.

“This is an absolutely despicable crime that is targeting the most precious of our society С our children,” said Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter, on Monday. “It is certainly causing fear among schools and families. We are working with federal and state agencies, and have top experts partnering with us, and we will not stop until the threats stop and these people are brought to justice.”

The threats have increased across New Jersey in recent weeks. “I don’t use this word often, but from my perspective it certainly is an act of terrorism,” Mr. Sutter said. “It causes fear, has economic repercussions, and makes people afraid to go to public places. It’s quite serious in all of its ramifications.”

Last month, John Witherspoon Middle School, Riverside Elementary School, Johnson Park Elementary, and Princeton High School were each the target of threats, known as “swatting” because they draw a heightened response from a SWAT team. After thorough investigations by law enforcement, no suspicious activity was found at any of the schools.

On May 27, the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro was put in lockdown after an automated phone call to New Jersey State Police said there were gunmen in the hospital and parking lot. A “code silver” was issued and there were rumors that someone had been taken hostage because of the alert, but no suspicious activity was found by state and Plainsboro police.

A day later, shoppers at Quaker Bridge Mall were evacuated for two hours after a call came in from what appeared to be a computer-generated voice. K-9 units from the New Jersey State Police, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, and the Princeton Police Department searched but did not find any explosive devices.

Similar hoaxes have taken place in recent years, but the current threats are different. “I’ve been doing a lot of research on this, and it’s been going on for some time,” said Mr. Sutter. “This takes the old-fashioned type of bomb threat that we’ve dealt with forever to a new level. It’s a huge public safety concern. I’ve seen it before, but this is something new.”

The police are working with other agencies to try and teach the public how to best deal with the phoned-in threats. “What we’ve been suggesting to the community, merchants, and the schools is that when a call comes in or is suspected, it’s important to remember specifics,” Mr. Sutter said. “Record the information that is given, the phone number, the information that comes up on the caller ID, and the sound of the voice, and give that information to the police department.”

Some two dozen threats in all have been documented in New Jersey over the past year. Among the targeted locations were schools in Holmdel, Ridgewood, and Farmingdale, as well as the Garden State Mall. The Office of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been aiding the New Jersey State Police and municipal police departments such as Princeton in investigating the incidents.

“We know that there are towns nationwide that are getting these, so that’s certainly an avenue we’re examining,” Mr. Sutter. “We’re working with different agencies, comparing all the data, and that’s definitely helpful in several ways. I’m confident that we’ll get to the bottom of it. It’s just really hurtful and has tremendous repercussions for the community.”

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A persistent drizzle couldn’t dampen the spirits of the 1,268 undergraduates and 885 graduate students awarded degrees at Princeton University’s 268th Commencement Tuesday. Held, following tradition, on the lawn in front of Nassau Hall, the ceremony also included the awarding of honorary degrees to artist and social activist Harry Belafonte; the University’s Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, David Billington; retired U.S. Army general Ann Dunwoody; former New Jersey Supreme Court justice Deborah Poritz; retired associate justice of the Supreme Court John Paul Stevens; and Peruvian novelist and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. (Photo by Eric Quiñones Courtesy of Princeton University, Office of Communications)

May 28, 2015

Members of the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood are asking members of the public to join them on Saturday, May 30, from 9:30 a.m. at the  First Baptist Church of Princeton at the intersection of Paul Robeson Place and John Street. On the agenda for discussion are the following topics: Affordable Housing, Historic Neighborhood Designation, Communiversity: Saturday or Sunday?, Consolidation: Positive/Negative?

A continental breakfast will be available.

May 27, 2015

Reunions Weekend gets off to a spirited start Thursday evening when activist Ralph Nader is presented with the inaugural Princeton AlumniCorps Award for Civic Engagement. The honor is to be bestowed during the 25th Anniversary Gala Celebration of the organization at the Westin Princeton. More than 250 alumni are expected to attend.

The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to civic life and inspired others to pursue public interest work. Mr. Nader, a member of Princeton University class of 1955, was a founder with other members of his class of the Princeton Project, now named Princeton AlumniCorps, in 1989. The organization was started as an independent nonprofit dedicated to connecting students and recent graduates to public interest jobs.

“In Ralph Nader, we have chosen a civic leader whose many accomplishments include inspiring the creation of the first independent organization of alumni dedicated to the public interest.” said Andrew Nurkin, Executive Director of Princeton AlumniCorps. “The spirit of engagement inspired by Ralph Nader continues to drive change in Princeton’s campus culture and provide alumni of all ages with experience and training for civic leadership.”

At Thursday’s event, the keynote speaker will be Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America. She will join in a conversation with Princeton University Professor Stan Katz on public service and higher education.

From 1993 to 1997, Princeton graduate Michelle Obama served as a Project 55 mentor in Chicago. In a letter of congratulations to Project 55, the first lady wrote, “My time with Princeton Project 55 helped me to understand that having access to and encouragement toward service can have a profound effect not only on the arc of a career, but also on the strength of our communities.”

Renamed PrincetonAlumniCorps in 2010, the organization has placed more than 1,500 graduates in one-year public interest positions through the Project 55 Fellowship Program.The model has been emulated by more than 30 other alumni groups, including Harvard, Stanford, and Bucknell universities.

 More recently, AlumniCorps has added programs that support alumni through a lifetime of service. The Emerging Leaders program trains early-career nonprofit managers to be future heads of nonprofit organizations. The ARC Innovators program connects alumni with significant career experience to pro bono projects at nonprofits across the US. With more than 1600 program alumni and a network of more than 500 nonprofit partners across the country, Princeton AlumniCorps is committed to growing and engaging multiple generations of civic leaders.

HACKING AWAY: At the Princeton Public Library, on June 6 and 7, the first Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon will use technology to help come up with new ideas and solutions for the town, and maybe beyond. A brainstorming session preceding the Hackathon takes place this Sunday, May 31, at the library.

HACKING AWAY: At the Princeton Public Library, on June 6 and 7, the first Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon will use technology to help come up with new ideas and solutions for the town, and maybe beyond. A brainstorming session preceding the Hackathon takes place this Sunday, May 31, at the library.

You don’t have to be a technology expert to take part in the Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon at Princeton Public Library June 6 and 7. All are welcome — even technophobes. You just have to be interested in building solutions for the local community.

“We’re using technology to help us address some of our problems,” says Mayor Liz Lempert, who has been enthusiastically plugging the event in recent weeks. “The idea is to get a new perspective on some of the issues we face as a municipality and are grappling with as a community. We’re looking at the issues through a different lens, bringing in residents who might not be typically engaged. This is a way to get some fresh eyes on some issues.”

The two-day event is part of the June 6 National Day of Civic Hacking, organized by Code for America. Princeton’s Hackathon is a collaboration between Code for Princeton, the Municipality of Princeton, and the library. Using publicly released data, technology, and design processes, participants will collaborate on projects in areas including renewable and sustainable energy, politics and elections, volunteerism and civic participation, environmental and geospatial data, and cycling and transportation.

“It has been held in many other cities,” said Ms. Lempert, who will hold a pre-Hackathon brainstorming session this Sunday at the library from 3-4 p.m. “It’s really a fun, community event. We’ve all been doing some prep work. On our end, we’re putting together big data sets in a format that people can use. The idea is that these would be posted online for people to use during the Hackathon, and afterwards. It’s part of our effort to be more open and transparent, not just sharing information but doing it in a way that’s going to be usable.”

Everyone is welcome at the Hackathon, but space is limited. The event begins at noon on Saturday, June 6 with a coffee hour and team formation. Following a keynote address by Major League Hacking Chief Executive Officer Mike Swift, Ms. Lempert will officially kick off the session, which continues through midnight. Hacking will resume at 8 a.m. Sunday with submissions due by 11 a.m.

Also planned for Saturday are programming classes for children. My Robotic Friends is for grades 1-5 at 1:30 p.m., and Scratch Programming is geared to grades 6-8 at 3 p.m. There will be space for hardware aficianados. For updates on workshops, speakers, and other events, visit codeforprinceton.org.

The brainstorming session this Sunday, May 31 is designed to discover what problems people want programmers and hackers to work on during the following weekend’s event. “Some might relate to the data sets we’ve put together, and some to sets we’ll still need to put together,” Ms. -Lempert said. “Depending on what the information is, we might be able to scramble and get something up and running for use during the Hackathon. Or it might just be a good idea we’ll work on.”

University professors, high school students, and other computer buffs are excited about the event. “In an ideal situation, we end up with an idea for an app that could be really great not just for Princeton, but for other towns around the country,” Ms. Lempert said. “In coming months, we can look into potentially developing it. But even if we don’t get a usable product, just having lots of residents engage with this data and come together can lead to ideas and solutions and to new perspectives”

Sponsors are hoping the Hackathon will be the first of more to be held in the future. Originally, the event was planned for April, but it coincided with one that Princeton University was holding. “It has generated a lot of excitement,” Ms. Lempert said. “One of the things I love about it is that it has already brought new people to the table who hadn’t been involved in the past.”

There will be prizes awarded for notable efforts — nothing fancy, though. “When hackathons first started, they would attract people to participate by offering big prizes,” Ms. Lempert said. “But fortunately for us, people seem to be moving away from that. It’s more for the camaraderie and the community. So I might take some of the winning teams out for ice cream.”

The Princeton Health Department wants to remind residents that rabies infected wildlife continues to pose a risk to people and pets. Rabies is almost always 100 percent fatal once a person or animal begins to show symptoms. Protecting pets by keeping them current on their rabies vaccine is an important buffer between wildlife rabies and human exposure. Indoor animals should also be vaccinated as rabid bats are frequently discovered by pets in the home.

“Princeton had the highest number of animals testing positive for rabies in Mercer County in 2014,” said the town’s health officer Jeffrey Grosser, adding that cats as well as dogs should be vaccinated. “Not only does the vaccine keep your pet safe, but it can help keep you and your family safe as well,” he said.

To protect themselves and their pets, residents should avoid wildlife and animals you do not know, keep pets on a leash, never feed or touch stray animals, teach children to tell you if they are scratched or bitten by an animal, and call the doctor and local health department if bitten or exposed to saliva or blood. Also, contact your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk, or other wild carnivore. Perform a 360-degree “walk-around” of your home, looking for openings in the exterior bats can use as an entry. Openings should be closed only after it is determined no bats are inside the home or the attic.

Dogs and cats are not considered immunized until 28 days after receiving an initial rabies vaccination, so they should not be left outdoors unattended. Every year, 30,000 to 40,000 Americans are potentially exposed to rabies, requiring costly and uncomfortable human rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. For more information, call the Princeton Health Department at (609) 497-7608.

Following the May 19 incident in which Princeton Police responded to a residence on Jefferson Road concerning a computerized threat made against its occupants, the department released the statement printed below. The Jefferson Road threat was phoned in to police headquarters and was a computer-generated voice. Police officers at the scene found the residence to be secure and the threat unfounded. The residents were not at home at the time. The threat was similar in nature to other recent threats received in Princeton and other areas throughout the state and country. Princeton detectives continue to investigate the source of these threats.

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“Over the last several weeks our police department, our public schools, private residences and local businesses have received generalized threats that appear to be computer generated by the perpetrator(s). These threats have been general in nature and indicate an imminent threat to those to whom they are directed. Each threat received a full police response and subsequent investigation. In each case the threats were determined to be unfounded and deemed a hoax.

Our department learned early on in these investigations that we are one of several communities statewide and many communities nationwide that are receiving similar threats. We believe that all of our incidents are connected to each other as well as connected to the other state and national investigations. We are currently coordinating investigative efforts to determine the source of the threats with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies including the Office of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey State Police. We are also working closely with our local educational partners to maintain a safe and secure environment for our students and faculty.

We will continue to communicate any future incidents through our alert systems and the media. We ask all community members to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity immediately by dialing 9-1-1.”

On June 7, the University Medical Center of Princeton (UMCP) will host a special celebration dedicated to those who have survived cancer. Vince Papale, a survivor who became a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and whose journey was portrayed in the film Invincible, will be the keynote speaker. Survivors, family members and friends, and anyone whose life has been touched by cancer, are invited to the event, which is called “Celebrate Strength, Celebrate Life” and will be held from 9 a.m. to noon in the Edward & Marie Matthews Center for Cancer Care at UMCPP, 1 Plainsboro Road. Breakfast, music, chair massages, and activities for children will be part of the day. Mr. Papale will speak from 10 to 10:30 a.m. followed by a question-and-answer session. Admission is free but registration is required at (888) 897-8979 or www.princetonhcs.org/calendar.

The New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) has recognized ikon.5 Architects of Princeton with a merit award in the built open category in recognition of its work on The E.J. Ourso College of Business at Louisiana State University.

ikon.5 Architects designed the project as a glass and steel academic village with the goal of expressing forward-thinking business education for the post-Katrina Gulf South. The design team constructed the building with contemporary materials including artistic, ceramic-coated mirror glass, and a bronze solar screen covering the project’s rotunda. The courtyard plan and building forms are contextual, recalling the sloped roof pavilions and arcaded courtyards of the adjacent 89-year-old campus, while the innovative glass technology communicates a forward looking enterprise.

“The building is an exceptionally well-designed and unique architectural solution that will meet the educational demands of students entering rigorous business fields, and also allows for free-flowing, creative thought,” said Kimberly Bunn, AIA, president of AIA-NJ. “ikon.5 demonstrated a high level of expertise in creating the design for this academic complex. Their work is clearly deserving of the merit award with which they were recognized, and the faculty and students of LSU will be the beneficiaries of this forward-looking design for years to come.”

Located at Nicholson Drive Extension, Baton Rouge, Louisiana the building houses 167,000 square feet of state of the art academic facilities including 24 interactive tiered classrooms, 18 collaborative team rooms, a 300-seat auditorium and a mock trading room. Additionally, faculty and department offices surround the landscaped courtyard.

“We’re extremely proud of this significant honor,” said Joseph G. Tattoni, FAIA, Principal of ikon.5 Architects. “The university was looking for a building design that would align with its mission of generating innovation in business education for the southern part of the country. We managed to create a design that meets this vision, while paying homage to the campus’s storied history.”

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Triangle

It was the best of times, it was the worst of crimes. The Princeton Triangle Show returns to McCarter Theatre’s stage for two performances of “An Inconvenient Sleuth” on Friday, May 29 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 30 at 7 p.m. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Clarke Music

PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov (second from left) and Board President David Tierno presented Melanie Clarke with an oil painting on stage at Richardson Auditorium. In honor of Ms. Clarke’s 25 years of service as the executive director, The Melanie Clarke Fund was established in her honor with an initial commitment of $200,000 from the orchestra’s board of trustees.

Harry Potter

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s concert for children and families, “The Composer is Dead,” featured familiar musical works from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” along with a murder mystery in which the children had to figure out which instrument led to the disappearance of PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov.

NashThe tragic taxi accident that claimed the lives of John Forbes Nash and Alicia Nash late last Saturday afternoon has inspired shock and sadness in the Princeton community and across the world. The famed mathematician, 86, and his wife, 82. a scholar in her own right, were traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike to their Princeton Junction home when the car crashed about 4:30 p.m. and ejected them from the vehicle.

The taxi lost control near Interchange 8A when trying to pass another car, and crashed into the guardrail, according to New Jersey State Police. The driver was flown to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The Nashes, neither of whom were said to be wearing seatbelts, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr. Nash’s connection to Princeton University goes back to 1950, when he earned his doctorate in mathematics. He joined the University’s mathematics department as a senior research mathematician in 1995, a year after he won the Nobel Prize for economics for his work in game theory.

In between, he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, which derailed his career but dissipated as he grew older. Mr. Nash’s life was the subject of Sylvia Nasar’s book A Beautiful Mind, which was turned into an Oscar-winning film in 2002. The mathematician was portrayed by actor Russell Crowe, who commented on Twitter that he was stunned by the accident and called the couple “An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”

University President Christopher Eisgruber commented on Sunday, “John’s remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists, and scientists who were influenced by his brilliant, groundbreaking work in game theory, and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marveled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges.”

University economics professor Dilip J. Abreu called Mr. Nash’s work in game theory “beautiful and profound. His contributions are arguably the greatest in the field, surpassing even those of John von Neumann, the 20th century polymath and founding father of the discipline. His papers have a celestial and effortless quality, as if penned — coolly — while God murmured in his ear.”

When the accident occurred, the Nashes were heading home from Newark Liberty International Airport after a trip to Oslo where Mr. Nash was awarded the prestigious Abel Prize by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Mr. Nash was recognized for his seminal work on partial differential equations, which are used to describe the basic laws of scientific phenomena. He shared the nearly $750,000 prize with longtime colleague Louis Nirenberg, a professor emeritus at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Mr. Nirenberg told National Public Radio that the Nashes were supposed to take a limousine home, but the driver failed to show up. So they took a taxi instead.

The two men received the Abel Prize from King Harald V at a ceremony on May 19. At the event, videos about both men were aired. Mr. Nash’s voice provides narration for the feature about him, as he walks around the Princeton campus.

“I like to think of myself as being sort of like an enlightened philosopher,” he said in one part. “I think of myself as an exceptional mind and I’m specifically trained in mathematics,” he said in another. “I experience myself thinking differently from other people. This could be good if I could think of something that wasn’t what everyone could think of …. I like to think of myself as a genius, but later on I realized it’s meaningless.”

The couple met at MIT, where Alicia Nash was a physics major and John Nash taught. They married, divorced several years later, and then remarried. Mrs. Nash, a mental health advocate, is credited with saving Mr. Nash’s life during his illness, taking him back into her home and caring for him even after they had divorced. Ms. Nasar wrote in A Beautiful Mind, “It was Nash’s genius … to choose a woman who would prove so essential to his survival.”

Mary Caffrey, who worked in the University’s Office of Communications during the time the book was published, recalled working with Ms. Nash at the time. “She was so gracious, and you could hear her pride that John was finally receiving the recognition he was due,” she said. “While the Nobel certainly brought John Nash back into the academic community, I think Alicia realized that Sylvia Nasar’s remarkable book would bring John’s story to a wider audience, which, of course, it did. Alicia was wonderful to work with and I always admired her strength and devotion to her husband.”

The couple’s son Johnny Nash, who also suffers from schizophrenia, survives them. Another son from Mr. Nash’s previous relationship, John David Stier, also survives. Mather-Hodge Funeral Home is handling the memorial service, which is private. A full obituary is to be posted on the Princeton University website later this week.

Discontinuing the 655 bus line that ferries passengers between Princeton and the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro on Route 1 would be a disservice to local residents, Mayor Liz Lempert, other politicians, and local residents told NJ Transit officials at a public hearing last week.

Thursday was the last day the public could comment on service cuts and fare hikes that NJ Transit has proposed to make up for a $60 million funding shortfall. At the Trenton Transit Center, a long line of people voiced opposition to both aspects of the plan. “Residents of Princeton who do not own a car currently rely on public transportation,” Ms. Lempert said during her turn at the microphone. Getting rid of the 655 bus “will disproportionately hurt our low income residents.”

In his opening statement, Alan Maiman, NJ Transit’s deputy general manager of bus service planning, said there are alternative routes that residents could use, involving a connection at Quakerbridge Mall. But more than one speaker said that alternative would involve paying more money and extending the trip from 20 to 90 minutes.

Officials urged NJ Transit to give the line, which has been in place since the hospital moved from the Witherspoon/Jackson neighborhood to Route 1, a chance to increase ridership. Lester Varga, planning director of Plainsboro Township, said more development planned for the area around the hospital will mean more riders when those projects С an assisted living facility and child development center С are completed.

Officials at the hospital have said they will keep subsidizing the service if NJ Transit keeps it going. And at its most recent meeting, Princeton Council passed a resolution to keep a form of transportation between the town and the hospital.

“The 655 is more than a bus route,” commented Aaron Hyndman, communications coordinator at the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition. “It’s a vital link between people in Princeton and their closest hospital. And for those who depend on biking and walking, it’s their only option.”

NJ Transit has said that the fare hikes and service cuts, if approved, would go into effect October 1. The agency has mentioned more than $42 million in  internal savings from a reduction of overtime and other expenses, but still faces a $60 million budget gap. The proposed fare adjustment is for approximately nine percent, which would make a trip between Princeton Junction and Penn Station New York rise from $16.50 to $17.75. The last fare hike, made five years ago, was 22 percent.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) was among the first to speak at the hearing, commenting that raising bus and train fares will mean that riders will defect and choose to drive their cars instead. “All of us benefit from low fares because the less cars that are on the road really helps out the environment and congestion,” he said. “If we chase more people into their cars on the roads, it’s not going to benefit us.”

Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) said, “There couldn’t be a worse time to raise train and bus fares on our working poor.” The changes could cause commuters to move out of New Jersey to live closer to their jobs, she added.

Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) urged the agency to find other methods of filling the budget gap. “In effect, you are adding insult to injury when you ask riders to pay more and receive less,” she said. Taking the bus route 655 out of service would be “very, very disturbing,” she added.

Several speakers took the opportunity to blast Governor Chris Christie for the proposed changes and other actions he has taken on public transportation. “Listen up, Governor Christie. We will not sit down and shut up,” shouted Martin Heraghty, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 824. He called Mr. Christie “Robin Hood in reverse” and called the proposal “a disgrace.”

Many of the speakers were members of New Jersey For Transit, a coalition put together to express opposition to the transit agency’s proposal. “Transit riders can no longer afford to pay the price for New Jersey’s inaction,” said Jon Whiten, deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective. “If the governor and the legislature won’t step in to fix a crisis that’s been coming for decades, the least they can do is find a short-term solution in the 2016 budget to fill NJ Transit’s operating hole. Passing the buck to transit riders just won’t cut it.”

The Princeton Public School’s Board of Education approved new three-year contracts with two of the district’s three employee associations at a special meeting in the Valley Road administration building May 20.

Contracts were made with the Princeton Regional Support Staff Association (PRESSA), which represents instructional aides, custodians, bookkeepers, and secretaries, and with the Princeton Administrators’ Association (PAA) which represents principals, assistant principals, and supervisors. Both contracts will replace those due to expire June 30.

Superintendent Steve Cochrane described the negotiations with PRESSA as “a model of positive and productive labor relations.” Of those with PAA, he said he appreciated the “leadership’s positive, professional, and efficient approach.”

Conspicuously absent from successful completion, is a contract with teachers’ union Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA), which has been in lengthy and contentious negotiation since it expired July 1 last year.

Since last fall, talks have been facilitated by state-appointed mediator, Kathy Vogt. But after the two sides failed again to reach agreement Monday, May 4, Ms. Vogt referred the matter for fact-finding to the New Jersey Public Employees Relations Commission, a stage in the process that Board President Andrea Spalla described as “costly and lengthy.”

Similar to non-binding arbitration, the fact-finding process involves a formal hearing before a neutral “factfinder,” who eventually issues recommendations for settlement.

“The process may take anywhere from six to 12 months,” said Lewis Goldstein, assistant superintendent for human resources in a press statement from the district.

According to Mr. Goldstein, mediation is provided to the parties free of charge but a factfinder can charge between $1600 and 2500 per day; a cost that would be split equally between the parties.

At the special meeting and in a press release afterward, details of the Board’s latest offer to the PREA were made public, now that neither side is bound by the mediator’s confidentiality agreement. In response, PREA representative and chief negotiator John Baxter sent a statement to Town Topics. “The Board of Education’s agenda for last night’s meeting contained just two items: ratification of the contract with PRESSA and ratification of the contract with PAA. Board President Andrea Spalla and Superintendent Steve Cochrane, however, spent much of the meeting talking about what wasn’t on the agenda — the negotiations with PREA. When questioned about the propriety of this conduct, Mr. Cochrane explained that sometimes items not on the agenda come up in discussion during the course of a board meeting. This did not serve to explain the powerpoint presentation on the negotiations with PREA, obviously planned for use during the meeting.”

According to the district, the Board’s most recent offer to PREA was structured almost identically to that with PRESSA and included “an aggregate increase in compensation at the effective rates of 2.44 percent in year one (retroactive to July 1, 2014), 2.87 percent in year 2 and 2.79 percent in year 3 of the new contract. The Board’s offer was contingent on PREA members remaining at their current Chapter 78 premium contribution levels and implementing cost-saving measures similar to those agreed to by the other two unions.”

According to Mr. Baxter, “the Board’s effort to unfairly portray the PREA as unreasonable was blatant both during the meeting and in the Board’s press release. The PREA did not refuse to meet again as the Board has characterized the termination of talks on May 4.”

Furthermore, said Mr. Baxter, “The Board’s last proposal included two major inequities: it advanced some educators on the salary guide ahead of others with more experience; and it denied health care relief for others because they were hired within the past four years. We have been negotiating since March, 2014. The time has come for proposals that will get the job done — not proposals that are divisive and that the Board should know we can not take to our members for ratification.”

Of Superintendent Steve Cochrane’s comment, made during the meeting, that the Board remains open to communications and returning to the negotiations table, Mr. Baxter said “We know that is true. What he didn’t tell the public is that it was PREA who reached out to him on May 7 and initiated that conversation.”

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The Spirit of Princeton led and sponsored the annual Memorial Day Parade Saturday, with marchers of all sorts taking part, some in kilts, some in plumed hats, some on bikes and in soap box derby carts. The parade was followed by a dedication ceremony at Monument Hall, where Retired Navy Captain John Baker was the featured speaker. Memorial Day thoughts are the subject of this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Emily Reeves) 

May 22, 2015

Celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2015 with a customized Ad in the Town Topics Newspaper. Include a photo, a listing of future schools or simply a message of good luck. Full color Ads are available for a special fee. For pricing and publication requirements, contact Jennifer Covill at (609) 924-2200 ext. 31 or simply email jennifer.covill@towntopics.com.

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From left, Princeton Public Library Executive Director Leslie Burger, Janie Hermann, public programming librarian; and Peggy Birdsall Cadigan, Deputy State Librarian for Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, New Jersey State Library.

From left, Princeton Public Library Executive Director Leslie Burger, Janie Hermann, public programming librarian; and Peggy Birdsall Cadigan, Deputy State Librarian for Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, New Jersey State Library.

Princeton Public Library has received the 2015 Innovation Award from the New Jersey State Library Association for January’s popular how-to festival, “65 Things at 65 Witherspoon.” The daylong program, during which multiple, simultaneous demonstrations of a variety of skills and abilities took place throughout the library, was an opportunity for members of the community to share their talents with others. Library executive director Leslie Burger and public programming librarian Janie Hermann accepted the award last month during the State Librarians Breakfast at the NJLA Annual Conference in Long Branch. “The New Jersey library community is recognized nationwide for being innovative and forward-thinking ” said Hermann. “So to be recognized as innovators among this group, is a wonderful honor indeed.”

May 21, 2015

The American Boychoir School needs an infusion of $1 million and a new, more affordable location in order to stay open.

In his latest communication with funders and friends of the school, board chairman Rob D’Avanzo has written that the private boarding academy for fourth-to-eighth-grade boys will not begin another school year “unless we know we can finish it. Operating annually without a financial reserve is perilous, no matter how deeply we wish to continue delivering the school’s incredible programming.”

The Plainsboro-based school filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month and began a fundraising campaign that enabled the students to finish out the school year. Approximately $360,000 was brought in the emergency campaign. The school’s Concert Choir toured the country in late April, and the Training Choir performed on a separate tour. Last weekend, graduation was held and the movie “Boychoir,” based on the school, opened at the Garden Theatre.

The American Boychoir School, founded in 1937 in Ohio and relocated to Princeton in 1950, was formerly located in a mansion on Lambert Drive that is currently home to the PRISMS Academy. ABS moved to its Plainsboro campus in 2013.

The board met for six hours to discuss the future following last Sunday’s graduation ceremony. “In the coming weeks, the board will be focused on whether it can secure both acceptable facilities and the financial commitments necessary to restructure the school,” Mr. D’Avanzo’s email reads. “When I wrote to you on April 10, I said that we would need $3 million to continue. Many of you have asked me whether we need all of that money in hand even before we can reopen. We do not, but we believe prudence necessitates that we obtain $1 million of committed funds to consider opening the school next year.”

The email says another update will be provided June 1.