Clinton School Construction Expected to Last 3 Years; Work on Other Schools to be ‘Staggered’

by Bruno J. Navarro
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Construction to expand and upgrade the facilities at Clinton Elementary School — part of the South Orange-Maplewood School District’s nearly $160 million capital improvement and integration plan — will take an estimated three years, according to the architectural firm working on the project.

Board of Education 2nd Vice President Anthony Mazzocchi said Monday that the Spiezle Architect Group had met last month with principals throughout the district to refine details of the Long-Range Facility Plan — bonding for which was approved in June — and to survey all the school facilities. Asbestos environmental testing was also underway, he added.

Due to the size of the facilities and the scope of work necessary at Clinton Elementary, the addition of classroom space and elimination of the portable structure will require relocating students from one part of the school to another while construction takes place, Mazzocchi said at the BOE meeting.

The capital-improvement and integration plan was originally slated for completion by the beginning of the fall 2020 school year but was later pushed back a year due to the deadlines attached to the required state review of the district’s revised plan. 

Mazzocchi also said that the architects and engineers provided preliminary exterior and interior designs, as well as began investigating whether it would be feasible to implement a geothermal heating and cooling system in district schools.

“They gathered a lot of comments, and we were presented a variety of building materials,” Mazzocchi said. The district is considering traditional and sustainable options, as well as various color palettes. Design options will be presented to the community in late January, Mazzocchi added.

BOE Elizabeth Baker sought further clarification about what the new timelines will mean.

“Are we talking about a six-month lag?” she said. “I don’t think it’s reasonable to have the time frame change without understanding what the options are.”

Noting that the LRFP had been approved by the community with a schedule of 18 to 24 months, Baker added, “Perhaps it was too aggressive, but I do think we need clarity as to what the time frames are.”

Superintendent Ronald Taylor said that construction would be staggered as to “when shovels will hit the ground” and that work would focus on elementary schools in the district, followed by construction on the middle schools and Columbia High School.

Business Administrator Paul Roth said that the architects had recommended focusing on the elementary schools, particularly the heating and cooling systems that serve the main buildings and previous additions.

“There are multiple systems in there,” he said. “They don’t work well together.”


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