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Marasco Is Preparing for Worst, Hoping for Best With Construction

Candace Braun

With a recent change in leadership and $81.2 million in construction projects underway at all six schools in the Princeton Regional School District, Interim Superintendent Richard Marasco has a tough job ahead of him as he enters the 2004-05 school year.

Interviewed after replacing former Superintendent Claire Sheff Kohn on August 2, Dr. Marasco said: "There's a lot of mess we need to clean up between now and September. Clearly the buildings are not prepared at this point in time."

Last year the district was scheduled to open on September 3, almost a week earlier than the scheduled first day of school for this year. With students scheduled to enter the buildings on September 9, and teachers scheduled to enter their new or partially-renovated classrooms on September 7, Dr. Marasco said he's hoping the extra week will allow time to "get the schools up and running."

The interim superintendent said he's hoping to have the schools readied early enough to allow faculty, at least at the elementary level, to go into classrooms and fix them up before the first day of school: "Certainly we're hopeful we'll have at least a small window of at least a week or maybe 10 days."

In addition, he said the district intends to hire outside custodial help to assist in the cleaning of the schools so that maintenance staff won't be working right up until the last minute, as was the case last year.

Subhead: Falling Behind

While work at all four elementary schools was due to be complete this summer, Dr. Marasco said he's not positive any of them will be finished by the first day of school: "There will be some ongoing work that contractors will still be doing in each one of the elementary schools.... There's always that punch list of items that aren't quite right or aren't quite finished."

The school board will take a tour of the district's six facilities on August 24, at which point decisions will be made concerning maintenance and cleaning of the schools.

That same day, the Board will vote on an ordinance that will create permit parking for students and residents around Princeton High School, a plan that has been in the works over the past two years.

However, while appreciative of the community's efforts, Dr. Marasco said he doesn't feel this will ultimately solve the parking issues at the school: "Parking is still going to be a problem; I'm convinced of that."

Back In The Game

Retired since 1994, Dr. Marasco previously served as interim superintendent for Princeton from April 1999 to January 2000. A superintendent for the Monroe Township School District for 19 years, he said he has seen the face of construction before, and his interim position is much what he had expected: "Princeton has always been a very 'active' school district, and still is. And certainly with the construction going on it heightens the anxiety about the opening of school and puts an exclamation point on what we need to do to get schools ready and open for September."

Keeping informed on all the projects and making sure the contractors know their deadlines is the best way to handle the situation right now, he said: "Everybody knows our concerns. We keep talking and pushing, and keeping our fingers crossed."

Screenings for a permanent superintendent are scheduled to start this week, the intention being to hire someone by mid-October who will take on the position in January, said School Board President Anne Burns last month. The district recently posted a notice for a new superintendent on its website, at www2.prs.k12.nj.us.

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