Essex County breaks ground on Newark Tech expansion, renovation

Photo Courtesy of Glen Frieson
Essex County and Newark officials are joined by Gov. Phil Murphy at the groundbreaking for a $31.7 million project to expand and modernize Newark Tech on Monday, June 28.

NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. was joined by Gov. Phil Murphy at the groundbreaking of a $31.7 million project to expand and modernize Newark Tech on Monday, June 28. Newark Tech is the third school building in the Essex County Schools of Technology District to undergo renovations in the last five years.

“I am proud to be starting construction on our third school building in five years. When Newark Tech is completed, all of the buildings in our vocational school district will be state-of-the-art and all of our students will have the most up-to-date resources to learn and prepare for their future,” DiVincenzo said. “Constructing modern school facilities demonstrates our commitment to providing our students with a first-class education and a foundation on which they can build their lives.”

“Today captures the importance of education for our children,” Murphy said at the event. “We come together and are talking about our children, education, the future of Newark and Essex County, and STEM. This school will go a long way toward achieving those aspirations.”

The project was welcomed with excitement from local elected officials and school district representatives.

“Anyone who knows me, knows that my policy is education. When we are opening the doors to a new facility like the one that will be built here, it is a great day,” NJ State Sen. and Essex Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.

“This is another wonderful project that the administration has brought to us,” Commissioner President Wayne Richardson said.

“This is an exciting time in the Essex County Schools of Technology and we have County Executive DiVincenzo to thank. In just a few short years, he dramatically improved our district with modern buildings that were designed to accommodate our diverse curriculum and space that can be adapted for new uses as our curriculum evolves,” Essex County Schools of Technology Superintendent James Pedersen said.

“The county executive listens to everyone. When the students asked for a gym, Joe built a gym. Now he has listened to them again and this new addition is becoming a reality. Thank you, Joe, for your vision for Essex County and our schools,” Essex County Schools of Technology Board Vice President Adrianne Davis said.

“What an exciting time for us to be part of this historic moment,” Newark Tech Principal Carmen Morales said. “The new building will be another place where students will have the tools to prepare for the rest of their lives.”

“I am looking forward to this modern space to provide a greater opportunity for us to achieve greatness,” said Maya Nicole Ratzan, a rising sophomore at Newark Tech. 

“The new building will integrate new classrooms that can benefit more students,” said Andrew Baidoo, a rising sophomore at Newark Tech.

The centerpiece of the project is a three-story, 16,500-square-foot addition that will be constructed in a parking lot behind the school on Lock Street. The addition will have a modern entry, new media center on the second floor and new cafeteria on the third floor. The larger media center and cafeteria will replace much smaller facilities, which made scheduling classes logistically difficult because the rooms could not accommodate large numbers of students. For example, because of the small size of the cafeteria, some students were assigned lunch periods as early as 10 a.m.

The 165,000 square feet of space inside the existing school building will be completely overhauled. Two new physics labs, a new suite for the school nurse, a second Technology Enhanced Active Learning Center and general classrooms will be created; the existing cafeteria kitchen and serving area, faculty lounge, cabinetry lab, and office spaces will be converted to support the TEAL Center. The renovation also includes the refurbishment of an existing wheelchair lift and freight elevator and the modernization of restrooms for students and staff. The entire building will receive a state-of-the-art HVAC system, fire alarm system, upgraded electrical system, and audio-visual and IT systems.

DiCara Rubino Architects from Wayne was awarded a $2,200,000 contract to design the addition and renovations. Epic Management from Piscataway was awarded a publicly bid contract for $28,509,000 to perform the construction. Jingoli and Sons from Lawrence was awarded a $999,069 contract to serve as the construction manager of the project.

In addition to Newark Tech, the other two schools that underwent construction in the past five years are the Donald M. Payne Sr. School of Technology and the West Caldwell School of Technology. Ninety percent of the costs for the school construction projects is being reimbursed with grants from the state. Essex County is responsible for paying just 10 percent of the costs, which comes to about $16 million. Part of those costs will be offset with the sale of the old North 13th Street Tech in Newark and the old Bloomfield Tech in Bloomfield, which were closed after the opening of Payne Tech.