Edison Public School District taking steps to address overcrowding ahead of pandemic end


EDISON – Whenever the pandemic passes, the issue with overcrowding in the Edison Public School District will still remain.

The district is moving forward with an addition to Lincoln Elementary School and looking at other possible options to alleviate overcrowding.

The Edison Board of Education (BOE) approved Schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen’s recommendation for a $9 million addition to Lincoln Elementary School at a board meeting on Oct. 15.

USA Architects, Somerville, prepared three options, which varied in scope, for the board’s Finance and Facilities Committee to consider. The USA Architects staff had presented the options to the committee on Oct. 12.

Board member Elizabeth Conway, who chairs the Finance and Facilities Committee, shared the three options at the BOE meeting.

Option one, with an estimated cost of $7 million, includes the addition of five new classrooms, a gymnasium and a kitchen. The option requires the continued use of the two classroom trailers currently on site.

Option two, which is the option the district has approved, includes 10 new classrooms, a gymnasium and a kitchen. The option removes one of the two classroom trailers with one remaining if needed for other uses.

Option three, with an estimated cost of $12 million, included eight new classrooms, a gymnasium and a kitchen. The option would remove both classroom trailers.

Peter Campisano, of USA Architects, said when meeting with Lincoln Principal Shawn Scully, his main concern was his students and the sections required per grade. Each option includes seven sections per grade, K-5; similar security entrances at the main entrance; and multi-purpose room, gymnasium and kitchen additions.

Campisano said because of the pandemic, the firm needs to look at different ways on how to design schools when it comes to heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. Instead of one large unit, Campisano said each classroom will contain a small package unit.

“Air is fresh air, maintained and stays within the classroom,” he said.

Conway said “it’s exciting that we have the opportunity to actually move forward and help [Lincoln School] that is in desperate need to work on [its] overcrowding issue.”

“[The proposed option] may not have all the bells and whistles, but every child will have a comfortable seat,” she said.

Some $6 million in the 2020-21 capital outlay budget and $3 million in the capital reserve account will be used to fund the project, Conway said. It is anticipated bidding for the project would occur by March 2021, a bid would be awarded by May 2021, and the addition would be ready for September 2022.

Lincoln Elementary School was on the list of schools for the two failed bond referendums in December 2019 and March 2020 to address overcrowding in the schools.

Board President Ralph Errico said the current addition for Lincoln Elementary School takes away essentially all the fluff, which was in the original $14 million plan for the elementary school. He said there were upgrades to the principal’s office in the original plans for the bond referendum.

Board member Jerry Shi asked about the possibility of solar panels on the school buildings. Bragen said they are in preliminary discussions with USA Architects for an energy savings program districtwide at no additional cost to the district.

In continued efforts to address overcrowding, Bragen said they are continuing to look at the viability of the Dorothy K. Drwal Stelton Community Center on Plainfield Avenue. Bragen said he was in discussions with the township before the pandemic.

In recent discussions with Township Business Administrator Maureen Ruane, he said the township is open for district officials to take a look at what it is really needed to renovate the building. He said he also spoke to Mayor Thomas Lankey who is 100% in support of the district. Bragen said one issue with the community center is the building is on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Recreation and Open Space Inventory (ROSI).

Bragen said the district is also looking at a property at the end of Truman Drive, site of the former New Jersey Army National Guard base.

“We know there have been some issues there [with contamination], but it is worth looking at and strongly assessing if it can help us with overcrowding,” he said. “Once we get over the pandemic, [overcrowding] does not go away. We have 1,300 students in the elementary grade levels … they need space.”