Metuchen High to have new science wing


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METUCHEN — Construction of much needed new science laboratories at Metuchen High School may start as early as December.

The Board of Education approved the proposal by EI Associates, a Cedar Knolls-based architectural design and engineering firm, for the detailed design and construction and administrative services of the two story addition of two new science laboratories at a meeting on Sept. 12.

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Thomas Andrasz and Richard Scheick, of EI Associates, presented the proposal to the board at a meeting on Aug. 29.

Board member Ben Small, who is the chairman of the Finance and Facilities Committee, said the proposal is the outcome of dialogue the committee has discussed about the shortage of science labs at the high school for course offerings, which he said has been discussed beyond his 10 years on the board.

Schools Superintendent Vincent Caputo said the need for science labs have been discussed for a long-time in Metuchen as far back as 1999.

“With growing enrollment at the high school — 120 [students] over the past four years — we’re in need of extra classroom space especially in science where we have one to two classrooms hosting science classes right now,” he said.

School Business Administrator Michael Harvier said the estimated total cost of the addition is to not exceed $2.2 million.

“We have about $1.2 million in reserve accounts we can use and the balance of that cost will be [paid] through lease purchased finance over a five year period,” Harvier said. “In addition, we received additional state aid of $78,000 for the 2017-18 school year that the board could decide to appropriate for these classrooms.”

The proposed new addition will be adjacent to the current science classrooms and align with the addition of an elevator that was constructed in 2005.

One complication of the location of the new wing was the proximity to the practice football field at the high school; however, school officials said the field could be flipped with the end zone facing the other side of the building.

Scheick said the design of the laboratories, which will each be 1,200 square feet, would be flexible with space to add a storage/prep room and possibly a small office depending on final layout requirements decided by the school district.

The design also would allow for potential expansion of the high school if required in the future, Scheick said.

The next steps in the process is to finalize the addition size based on intended lab use and layout, assist the school district in developing educational specifications for each lab, complete estimate and application schematic forms for submission to the New Jersey Department of Education for approval, conduct land survey and soil tests, seek Planning Board approval and then proceed with construction documents.

Scheik said the time frame to get the proposal ready for submission to the state Department of Education for approval would take approximately two to four weeks.

Contract documents would be submitted to the borough for permit review and while under review, the proposal will go out to bid for a request for proposal, Scheik said.

“We are looking at a December timeline to award a contract,” he said.

Scheik said the start on the construction of the addition would depend on weather conditions.

“If we have a harsh winter, work will be delayed so that’s the big question,” he said.

Andrasz said they do not expect a major impact on school operations with the construction of the new wing. Temporary protections will be made once work has started.

For the most part, members of the Board of Education shared their excitement and were in favor of the addition.

Board member Justin Manley said he understands the addition was one of the highest priorities for the board; however, he shared his concern of the unknown by moving forward with the addition without addressing other needs in the district.

Caputo said the addition of the science laboratories would allow the district to increase the science experience for students at the high school.

He said in a traditional schedule, usually high schools have science classes meet an extra period a week.

“One of the days, the class is 42 to 45 minutes and one of the days is a double period 80, 90, 100 minutes,” Caputo said. “[The addition of two new labs] would allow us to increase [the science classes] significantly.”

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