Editor’s Note: This story was written by Livingston Public Schools for its website.
The Board of Education is discussing adding classrooms and media centers at Livingston’s elementary schools to make room for rising enrollments and special education students.
On Tuesday, October 16, the board heard presentations from Superintendent Dr. Brad Draeger on the long-term facility needs and the architect who has worked out several construction options and cost projections.
In a non-formal straw poll, board members said they would like to pursue adding a total of 14 classrooms and three media centers, a project pegged at $18.2 million.
Construction is being considered because the elementary schools are near or above capacity, Draeger said.
Hillside, Burnet Hill and Collins elementary schools currently have the highest 100 percent capacity usage with special teachers sharing rooms, according to room capacity and usage data presented by the Superintendent.
The Board is expected to vote to provide the LBOE architect with specific plans for additions for each school on Monday, October 29. The architect’s plans would then be submitted to the state Department of Education (DOE) for approval.
Under consideration is a plan to add media centers at Collins, Harrison and Riker Hill, where aging facilities do not support technology, Draeger said. This construction work would add eight classrooms as the existing media centers would be converted to classrooms.
That would meet the District’s classroom needs for the next four to five years, Draeger said. But even with those eight classrooms, LPS elementary schools would still be at or near 100 percent capacity.
Board members said they are in favor of enlarging the scope of the original project by building additional classroom space at Burnet Hill and Hillside. Under review are plans for three new classrooms (two new, one converted) at Burnet Hill, and three classrooms on a one-floor addition at Hillside, with an option at Hillside for adding a second floor and additional classroom space in the future.
If the projects are approved by both the BOE and DOE, the next step would be a decision by Board members as early as January to hold a public referendum to seek approval of funding to improve school facilities.
Plans Meet Needs of Rising Enrollments, Benefits Special Ed
Jerry Rubino, a principal of Di Cara | Rubino Architects, said the plans provide additional classrooms to address both rising enrollments and special education inclusion.
Enrollment is expected to rise as new housing developments approved by the township are constructed, Draeger said.
The new classrooms would also help the District meet its Strategic Goal to bring back special education students who now attend school out-of-district, according to Ronnie Spring, Vice President of the Board of Education.
Relief is also projected for soft border student assignments as well as lowering class size, Draeger said.
Soft borders cannot be reduced or eliminated, class sizes decreased or students kept in District without additional classroom space, Draeger said.
Livingston has already seen rising enrollment, with 120 new students registered between July 1 and the first day of school. An additional 20 students have enrolled since the start of school, double the amount of previous years, Draeger said.
The construction being considered also includes ADA-required renovations at Livingston High School, including handicapped accessibility for restrooms, sinks and ramps.
Di Cara | Rubino Architects recently completed the roof, solar and energy renovations at the elementary and middle schools, and was hired by the Board of Education to submit the construction options and plans for these proposed projects.
Separate from the projects considered on October 16 is an additional project -- modifications at Monmouth Court Community Center, which houses the Alternative High School. That work is a joint project with the Township of Livingston and will include repairs to the gym, upstairs classrooms, boiler, electrical work, and elevator.