The South Orange-Maplewood School District celebrated the opening of the Montrose Early Childhood Center on Friday, Dec. 4 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos thanked Property Service Director Bill Kyle, saying the building’s renovation would not have been possible without him. Ramos introduced the MECC’s director Renee Joyce who singled out the district’s former Director of Special Services Dr. Patricia Barker for her work in shaping the program.
Ramos alluded to the delayed opening of the center, asking the crowd, “Was it worth it?” The answer came back resoundingly: “Yes.”
The grand opening was delayed by three months due to “uncontrollable delays by PSE&G,” as Ramos reported in September. The 61 enrolled students were served at other school buildings throughout the district while construction was completed after PSE&G issues were resolved. “The whole school community pitched in,” said District Spokesperson Suzanne Turner.
The fruits of the district’s labor were obvious inside the building where the hallways gleamed and glowed with new surfaces and paint, windows and doors. The classrooms, auditoriums, offices and hallways all looked pristine and new.
The district is looking for the Early Childhood Center to reduce the number of students the district pays to send to programs in other towns, to accommodate rapidly growing enrollment throughout the district, and to gain revenue from tuition-paying students from outside the district.
The ultimate capacity of the building is 150 students, with the district targeting 81 spots for regular education students and 69 for special education. District Spokesperson Suzanne Turner said that the current enrollment number of 61 did not fall short of Year 1 expectations, noting that “the original proposal projected that we would not reach capacity until the 4th year of operation.”
In terms of cost of renovation, District Business Administrator Cheryl Schneider reported, “We’re still finishing some punch list items but the construction costs, including the paving of the new parking lot, will end up around $3.2 million.” (Outside the school on Friday, a crew was still working to install the center’s playground equipment.)
In September, Schneider reported that the Center would start earning back that investment immediately, bringing about $1 million in out-of-district placements back into the South Orange-Maplewood School District for the 2015/16 school year.
In addition, of the 60 students enrolled by mid-August, the district reported that 18 students were paying the full $800/month fee with the others paying a reduced fee on a sliding scale based on financial need.
Schneider provided a full outline of projected enrollment and revenues for the center at the December 2014 Board of Education meeting. Read that report here.
Click on any photo to see a slideshow of images from the Montrose Early Childhood Center ribbon-cutting ceremony.