By Kayla J. Marsh
MIDDLETOWN – School officials have approved proposals for several projects aimed at improving the functional capacity of the district’s 17 schools in order to support expected student population changes over the next several years.
At a recent Board of Education meeting, proposals were accepted from Spiezle Architectural Group, Inc., to provide professional architectural services for projects that are totaling $98,200.
Projects approved by the board include elevator replacements at Middletown High School North and New Monmouth Elementary School, totaling $26,900, HVAC unit replacements at Middletown High School North and Middletown High School South, totaling $31,400, and the replacement of the track at Middletown High School North for approximately $39,900.
“Last time we met, we started to plan out the initial draft of the long-range facilities assessment,” said Steven Siegel, a senior associate and project manager with the architectural group that is based in Trenton.
“Since then, we have had a number of additional meetings with the administration to go through what items we wanted to include in the plan, which items can be taken care of out of budget and even what items may have already been taken care of in the last year since we began working on this.”
According to Siegel, the Department of Education has a regulation that requires school districts to update their Long Range Facilities Plan every five years from the date of the last approval and Middletown’s is due to be updated.
“We’ve ironed out the different facilities needs over all the district’s schools and … we started to discuss what things we can potentially do this summer out of budget, things that can possibly be looked into for next summer and we also started thinking big picture about what items we would need to get done in the next few years that can’t come out of budget and how to potentially fund those projects,” he said.
Projects were categorized either as a priority one, which would involve the items that the district should look at within the next year or two, priority two, which involves items that would need to be taken care of three to four years down the road, and priority three, which are items that would need to be discussed and budgeted for in five years or more.
Aside from the approved elevator replacements, heating and ventilation unit replacements and track replacement, Siegel said the district is looking into multiple other renovations, including hallway ceiling and lighting replacements at River Plaza, Port Monmouth, Ocean Avenue and Nutswamp Elementary Schools, dividing a room at Harmony Elementary School to provide two smaller group rooms, adding a toilet at Middle Village Elementary School, and addressing some of the acoustical needs in the classrooms at Thorne, Thompson and Bayshore Middle Schools.
“That whole list comes out to a total budget of about $2.4 million,” Siegel said.
He said with decisions being made about projects the board would like to move forward with, the architectural group can now design and put out some bid packages for the work to hopefully be completed during the summer months.
“Big picture, looking at the entire facilities needs at the priority one level, you are about $41 million worth of work so … there are options to help alleviate some of that cost,” he said.
Siegel mentioned that aside from possible future referendums, the district could put together an energy savings improvement plan.
“A lot of the things that need to get done in that phase are mechanical equipment items and lighting in the district that could use to be replaced, so there is substantial savings from those that would help offset those costs,” he said. “All the projects that you do [within the plan] have to be producing energy-savings within a 15-year period.
“So this is something we might want to start looking at to see if we can do therefore it wouldn’t cost the district as much money [and] if we can get a lot done within that program, it would be a $0 cost to the district.”
According to Amy Gallagher, business administrator and board secretary, with Middletown Township School District being made up of 12 elementary, three middle, and two high schools that service more than 10,000 students from pre-K through 12th grade, the district is also working on evaluating the current and projected enrollments.
“With a total of $2.4 million, obviously that is not money that we have readily available, [but] I think it is good to look at everything we have and see what the potential overall costs would be,” she said.
Gallagher said the district does have $932,000 in capital reserve to work with in addition to $100,000 already allocated for the elevator work.
“I don’t want you to think this is something we’re going to have wrapped up by April, but on the other hand, some of the things on this list are things we are going to be looking to include in next year’s budget,” Gallagher said. “And in addition to that, if we do want to do the work this summer, we’re going to have to start moving forward even before the budget is finalized as far as just working on design work and getting things out to bid, otherwise we are not going to have time to get this stuff done during the summer months we have available to work in the schools.”