Unveiling of new school celebrated in Irvington

Photo by EmilyAnn Jackman
Irvington Superintendent Neely Hackett, Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, Madison Avenue Elementary School Principal Malikita Wright, Irvington Board of Education President Richard Williams, New Jersey Schools Development Authority interim Chief Executive Officer Manuel Da Silva and others stand together for the the Madison Avenue ribbon-cutting ceremony.

IRVINGTON, NJ — The New Jersey Schools Development Authority joined Irvington School District leaders, students and state and local officials at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Madison Avenue Elementary School in Irvington on Thursday, Sept. 19.

The new school was one of the four new facilities opened by the NJSDA this September, and has been highly anticipated by the community.

“I’m just extremely excited. This has been a long time coming,” Irvington Superintendent Neely Hackett told the Record-Transcript at the event. “I’m excited for our children, because they get to learn in an environment where it promotes 21st-century learning and thinking and I’m just so pleased and happy for them.”

Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss was also on hand at the ceremony.

“I’m extremely excited. I actually worked on this project when I was here as school board president,” the mayor told the Record-Transcript. “I’ve served on the Board of Education for nine years, before becoming mayor. The moment I was sworn in as mayor was the moment I stopped being school board president. But this is exciting. We have our bunch of hardworking people on the school board. Our superintendent is doing a phenomenal job and I’m just proud that our children finally get to have something new that they can call their own and further the opportunities that they have to better themselves in the future.”

Completed in three years, one year ahead of schedule, the 73,000-square-foot elementary school facility was designed to educate approximately 500 students in pre-k through grade five. It was built on the foundation of the former school that stood on the lot and includes 26 general education classrooms, small group instruction rooms, a cafeteria, a multipurpose room with stage, music and art rooms, a science and computer lab, and a media center. The school also features an outdoor play space that includes a basketball and volleyball court and a track.

Roger Monel, associate school business administrator for the school district, spearheaded the project.

“I started this project,” Monel told the Record-Transcript. “I was the person instrumental in making sure this project has taken place. Involved in this project was Mayor Tony Vauss, Dr. Hackett, myself, people from the district, the community at large, the board members and then council members. In 2002, the state shut down the project. What I did was I continued to go after them and I went to the state, met with the staff and, finally, they’ve reopened the project. We were meeting every week, every month, and they’ve finally decided to continue the project. They promised me the job will be completed in September 2019, and it really happened and I’m very pleased with that.”

With an estimated cost of $38.6 million, a number confirmed by Monel, the school was built using a design-build approach. This method departs from the traditional approach in that the NJSDA contracts with one firm for both the design and construction. Ernest Bock & Sons Inc. was the design-build contractor and worked in partnership with SSP Architectural Group on the design. The project was managed by Epic Management Inc.

“This is awesome,” Zorama Figueroa, facility supervisor for the Irvington School District, told the Record-Transcript. “We just need one more. This is beautiful … state-of-the-art. Technology-wise, the school is awesome. The new playground is colorful, bright, it’s beautiful. I love it.”

Richard Williams, president of the Irvington Board of Education, also praised the new school’s technology.

“I love it. This is just one of the things we were trying to do. We were trying to bring Irvington into the modern age, so that our kids will not be neglected for anything that they’re entitled to.”

Malikita Wright, principal of Madison Avenue School, is also proud of where Irvington is headed.

“It’s just nice to become current,” Wright told the Record-Transcript. “I’m really enjoying the school. I think my favorite part of the school is seeing the smile on a scholar’s face. The kids are enjoying it. Everything is awesome. The classrooms are awesome. It’s just beautiful. It’s nice to see that the scholars have a new building that they can call their new school home and be proud of it.”

As a result of NJSDA’s commitment to building energy-efficient buildings that consider the surrounding environment, this school was built to be LEED-certified, meaning it conforms to the U.S. Green Building Council’s definition of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The NJSDA predicts the new Madison Avenue Elementary School building will achieve a LEED Silver certification.

“The SDA is proud of the construction of this new school,” NJSDA interim Chief Executive Officer Manuel Da Silva told the crowd in his closing remarks at the event outside the new school. “I encourage the students to take advantage of the opportunities this building provides. We look forward to seeing what you can accomplish out in the world and we wish you the best of luck.”

The NJSDA has invested more than $151 million in completed projects in Irvington alone since the inception of its school-construction program.