Oceanport considers building, renovating schools

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By VASHTI HARRIS
Staff Writer

Seeking to upgrade Wolf Hill Elementary School and Maple Place Middle School, the Oceanport Board of Education voted on three renovation options to potentially propose in a referendum.

Narrowing its options from eight plans to three, the board considered building new schools at new sites and doing major or minor renovations at the existing schools.

To create a dialogue among the public and its members, the board held a special workshop meeting to discuss possible reconstruction choices on May 10 at the Maple Place Middle School library.

“On April 26, which was our last board of education meeting, we passed a resolution as a board that we refer to as our referendum justification statement it effectively says [that] we as the board believe that facility improvements are necessary and that the costs of these necessary improvements will exceed our budget’s capacity. Therefore as a board we have no choice but to go through a bond referendum process,” said Cullin Wible, the board of education’s president.

During the meeting the board’s leading architect Bill Pappalardo from JBA Architecture and Consulting, LLC gave a detailed presentation in which he explained the potential renovation options which included: new properties and sites, facilities, and prospective major and minor improvements for both schools.

Wolf Hill Elementary school’s building was first constructed in 1911 and additional parts of the building were built in 1932, 1948, and 1958, according to Pappalardo.

After performing a needs assessment on the building, Pappalardo and his team of engineers found that the building was in non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The building needs an elevator and a stage elevator to assist students with disabilities, according to Wolf Hill Elementary School assessment report.

The facility also needs improvements that include: a sprinkler systems, new IP cameras, alarm systems, public address systems, and vestibule doors. Renovations of office and meeting spaces are also in need of upgrades, according to the assessment report.

Maple Place Middle School’s building was built in the 1950s, according to Wible.

The building needs several safety and security improvements that include: a new public address system, vestibule doors, window replacements, cameras and an alarm system, according to the Maple Place assessment report.

Furthermore, the building is also in need of new science labs, STEM/Robotics lab and a new library, according to the assessment report.

At the beginning of the meeting the board was presented with eight different potential renovation options, which was explained by Pappalardo and Wible.

Along with explaining the improvement choices Pappalardo also presented a feasibility study and a detailed demographic study.

By the end of the meeting, the board voted to keep three out of the eight options.

Each potential option does not require the students to be relocated, according to Wible.

The first proposed renovation option is a two-part plan, in which a new pre-kindergarten through fourth grade school building would be built behind the current Wolf Hill Elementary School building. Once construction is complete the students would be moved to the new building and the old one would be demolished for open space.

The estimated construction cost is $19.27 million and the estimated construction time is two years, according to Pappalardo.

Under that option, Maple Place Middle School would receive minor renovations.

The estimated construction cost is $10,800,000 and the estimated construction time is one year, according to Pappalardo.

The second chosen renovation plan is a land option provided by Fort Monomouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), where a new PreK-8 would be built on Fort Monmouth. Once completed the previous building properties would be sold, according to Wible.

The estimated construction cost is $30.8 million and the estimated construction time is three years, according to Pappalardo.

“This is not entirely decided at the moment. The discussion at the meeting suggested that the board would contemplate a PreK-8 school at the new site, however, this decision is not final and may be subject to change,” Wible said.

The third and finally renovation option was a choice that was not on the meeting agenda or in the presentation given by Pappalardo, but was discussed during the special workshop meeting.

Members of the board referred to this option as the “Commvault property” due to a company called Commvault that previously owned the building, according to Wible.

Currently the building is called Monmouth Corporate Park Center II.

The board discussed turning a portion of the Monmouth Corporate Park Center II building into a school for grades pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. Since this was a newly decided potential option there is no estimated costs or construction time yet, according to Wible.

“Members from the board’s Building and Grounds Committee have already met with the owners of the [Monmouth Corporate Park Center II] to further discuss this potential option,” Wible said.

“At our next meeting we will continue to discuss the three options that we chosen and ask our architect to update the feasibility study that was presented at [the special workshop] and more information will be added for the public,” Wible said.

The board’s next regular meeting is on May 24.

Depending on the feedback the board receives from its architect, the public and from negotiations with FMERA and the owners of the center, it might schedule another special meeting, according to Wible.

“Currently the board is in phrase one which it calls the project planning phase. Once an official renovation plan is voted on, the board will file the plans with the New Jersey Department of Education, to which there are a series of filing deadlines that occur. After filing, the referendum vote is placed on a ballot which is voted on during a election date,” Wible said.

Wible said that the board it not rushing to make an official renovation plan.

“[The board] will make a decision when [the board] feels that the decision made is the right decision. We are trying to look at all of our options, so we are looking to meet a date,” Wible said.

To learn more about the Oceanport Board of Education reconstruction project visit www.oceanportschoolproject.com and click on reference documents April 2017.

For more information about the Oceanport Board of Education visit www.oceanport.k12.nj.us/domain/25.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.