PRINCETON: School board discusses demolishing Valley Road School

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Princeton schools logo 6/11/15

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The Princeton school board has discussed internally the possibility of demolishing all or part of Valley Road School, in what is expected to be the site of a new school for fifth-and sixth-graders, a top official said this week.
School board president Patrick Sullivan said Tuesday that tearing down the building “could be an option,” at a time when the district is planning to go to voters in October with a facilities bond referendum.
While officials have made no decisions, Sullivan said they have discussed whether the building meets code regulations and the needs of “education” for the “next one hundred years.”
Sullivan said that the board would get a recommendation from its architects on how to proceed in the middle of December, with the next public board meeting Dec. 12.
Officials are considering projects, like making an addition to the overcrowded Princeton High School, to meet needs the district says it has.
“So now we’re hearing from community members and everyone has a wish,” said board member Dafna Kendal, chairwoman of the board’s facilities committee, by phone Tuesday. “And we have to weigh everything.”
Valley Road School opened in 1918, and was the first integrated elementary school in Princeton in the late 1940s. It has had different uses over the years, including as municipal offices for the former Township, and today is home to the district central administration.
Kip Cherry, a local activist, alumna of the school and leader of a group that sought to turn Valley Road into a community center, said Tuesday that she “still very much” would like to see the school “saved and reused.”
Yet based on what was said at a Cranbury Township Committee meeting on Monday, the future of Valley Road might be a fait accompli.
Township Committeeman Glenn Johnson, who briefed the rest of the governing body and the public after attending the most recent Cranbury School board meeting earlier this month, said there was a “substantial amount of discussion about the Princeton school district and what they’ve got coming up.” Cranbury and Princeton have a send-receive relationship for eighth-graders who graduate from Cranbury School to attend Princeton High School.
Johnson said “the plan, at this point, is that they will put a third floor” at the high school and that Princeton intends “to tear down their administration building on Valley Road and replace that with a school for fifth and sixth grade.”
He also said the town would close off Walnut Street, although Sullivan said that idea is no longer on the table and was something the district had considered, as a pedestrian mall for students, when it was looking to acquire the Westminster Choir College campus. That bid for the music school property ultimately failed.