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District Hopes Construction Will Finish By Year End 2006

Candace Braun

Starting to feel the pressure of looking at completion of construction more than a year later than originally expected, the Princeton Regional School District recently hired a consultant to pin down a new schedule for work at the high school.

As it stands, $20 million of the $32.8 million high school project remains undone, or more than 65 percent of the structure work.

Contractors of the construction management firm, Ernest Bock & Sons of Philadelphia, have been slow to complete the project for various reasons, including some delays in state approvals that slowed progress.

Following the hiring of the consultant, Trauner Consulting Services of Philadelphia, school officials met last Friday with its construction management firm and consultant to devise a new work schedule.

While Board members refused to comment on the results of Friday's meeting prior to its facilities meeting next week, the district is hopeful the project will be completed by December 2006, said Lew Goldstein, assistant superintendent for human resources, public information, and community relations.

Contractors are expected to complete the high school's science classrooms and gymnasium before the start of school this fall, said Board Vice President Charlotte Bialek, although she was unaware if that date may have changed following the recent meeting.

"The idea was to get a schedule hammered out.... Hopefully they did it," she said. In addition, the district is looking to have the auditorium completed this fall, but Ms. Bialek noted that, amidst all the work that is visibly being done on PHS grounds, there is only a hole where the auditorium is expected to be constructed.

If the new classrooms are completed in time for school, however, "we can get going on renovations in existing rooms," she said. Ms. Bialek anticipated the entire project at the high school being finished one year after new construction is complete.

The original date for completion of construction and renovations at PHS was September 2005. Overall, approximately 40 percent of the $82.3 million construction and renovation project in the district is complete.

The four elementary schools, which were for the most part complete by the start of school last fall, are still only about 99 percent complete, said Mr. Goldstein. Work at John Witherspoon Middle School is 80 percent complete, and should be done by the end of summer. Work on the insides of the building, as well as renovations on some of the wings of the schools, are underway right now, he added.

And at Princeton High School, passersby can see where the steel has been constructed in every part of the new structure on Walnut Lane, with the exception of the auditorium, and approximately 30 percent of the cement blocking is complete, said Ms. Bialek.

The fate of the high school construction and renovation project will be outlined in its entirety at the Board's facilities meeting on April 21.

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