The state unveiled a concept for the new middle school that will be constructed on the site of the former Don Bosco Technology building during a presentation at the school board meeting on Wednesday night.
A four-story masonry building that fits in with the residential character of the Hillcrest section will be built on Union Avenue between Sherwood and Linwood Avenues, said officials from the New Jersey School Development Authority (SDA).
The building will be divided into three small learning communities or schools. Each small learning community will have 14 general classrooms (including 2 self-contained special education), 3 science labs, 1 art room, 1 project lab or maker space, and small group instruction rooms. Also, there will be staff and administrative support facilities.
Each learning community will educate approximately 330 students. The school is designed to educate 996 students in 6-8 grades. The three communities will share a three-station gym, locker rooms, athletics offices, occupational and physical therapy room, instrumental and vocal music rooms, media center and computer lab, cafetorium with stage that doubles as a dance studio, nurse’s office, administrative offices, food services, and building operations facilities.
School board member Jonathan Hodges, a retired medical doctor, asked whether the nurse’s office will have a privacy space. The nurse’s office will have an exam room that can be closed, responded a state official.
Hodges also appeared concerned about having a single 1,200 square feet computer lab for almost 1,000 students.
Charles McKenna, chief of the New Jersey School Development Authority, said students and staff will be provided electronic devices. He said the media center or the library is three times the size of the computer lab. He said the state has a $2.2 million information technology budget for the school.
Hodges also asked whether the building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a green building standard, certified. McKenna replied in the affirmative. However, that does not include solar panels. He said the building will be designed to allow for solar panels on the roof.
The district can install solar panels, said McKenna.
Board member Emanuel Capers wanted to know whether the gym on the third floor will have hardwood floor.
“It’s important we have wood floors so it lasts longer,” said Capers.
“I don’t know that wood floors last longer,” replied McKenna. He said the state installs hardwood floors in high schools, but not for elementary schools which receive composition floors.
McKenna said if the district wants hardwood floors it can pay the difference of $50,000.
The school building, which will have an entrance on the Sherwood Avenue side, will not have parking.
“Parking is one of the things we don’t generally provide,” said McKenna. He said state environmental regulations disallow parking spaces on low elevation sites. He said the site will have to be elevated to create parking spaces.
The school will have a 23,000 square feet play area at the back corner of the building.
The state has been demolishing the old school at the site. Demolition is expected to be finished in May. In-house design for the school will be done in March. A design-build contract will be awarded in the third quarter of 2018, according to McKenna.
The school will open in fall 2021.
Both Hodges and Capers in the past wanted the state to build a swimming pool in the school for students. Neither broached the subject on Wednesday night.
State officials have a forum scheduled for Thursday at John F. Kennedy High School to hear from residents.
Superintendent Eileen Shafer invited residents from the Totowa-Hillcrest neighborhoods to attend the forum — particularly parents of School 5 and School 27 students.
“We’re asking the community to come out,” said Shafer. “It will be your neighborhood middle school.”
The forum at Kennedy is from 6-8 p.m. tonight.