Glen Ridge School District works to get schools ready for September

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
John Baumann, supervisor of buildings and grounds for the Glen Ridge School District

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — In preparation for another academic year, maintenance and renovation projects are underway at Glen Ridge district schools, according to Superintendent of Schools Dirk Phillips and district buildings and grounds supervisor John Baumann. 

At Central School, which serves students from preschool through second grade, the district plans by September to have constructed a shade structure on the playground, according to Baumann. A vendor will do the work, and the project is currently in the permit process with the borough.

“The structure will have several uprights with a cantilevered roof,” Baumann said in an interview with The Glen Ridge Paper. “The roof will overhang a portion of the playground to provide relief from the sun. The area where the shade structure is proposed has a blacktop surface. Where the playground equipment is located has a soft rubber surface.”

Baumann said the upcoming year will increase the Central School population with two second-grade classes being added, the students coming from Linden Avenue and Forest Avenue schools; those schools will also continue to have second-grade classes. In a separate interview, Phillips added that the school will be at full K-2 capacity.

“Like the other schools, Central will be a true neighborhood school,” Baumann said.

At Forest Avenue School, which serves K-2 students, the main office was completely renovated, according to Baumann. 

“It’s a very old building,” he said. “The main office, essentially the epicenter of the building, was pretty much gutted, plastered, painted, given new flooring (and now has) recessed mailboxes and furniture ergonomically laid out.”

Phillips said this project was long overdue.

Two classrooms are having new furniture installed and the district will construct near the playground a “buddy bench,” a memorial for Glen Ridge Police Department Officer Charles ‘Rob’ Roberts, who died in May 2020, after testing positive for COVID-19.

“The theory in modern education,” Baumann said, “is, if there’s a child who feels lonely, they sit on that bench as a signal that they seek companionship.”

Phillips said the district and the Forest Avenue Home and School Association have been working collaboratively to upgrade the furniture in the building. 

At Linden Avenue School, which serves Pre-K-2 students, Pre-K and kindergarten classroom bathrooms were remodeled. 

“Again, it’s an older building,” Baumann said. “The bathrooms, as it were, were drab and uninviting. The plumbing fixtures were worn and dingy, and the plaster walls were cracked and the vinyl composition floors were cracked.”

Four classrooms will also be painted by September.

“A majority of the school buildings have just a couple of colors,” Baumann noted. “That makes it easier to touch up.”

At Ridgewood Avenue School, which serves students in grades 3-6, the roof above the lower gym was replaced.

“It was in poor condition and leaked,” Baumann said. “The roof consists of a flat area and a perimeter mansard roof, which is sheaved with clay tiles. From the ground, you won’t see the flat roof, but you will see the mansard.”

Because the roof was replaced exactly as it was, Baumann said Glen Ridge Historic Preservation Commission approval was not required. Phillips said the roof has been replaced during the last two years.

At Glen Ridge High School, which serves grades 7-12, more work was being done. This time in the media center, which, according to Phillips, will be redefined as a student center.

“There were a lot of bookshelves,” Baumann said. “They were removed, along with older furnishings. Some technology was removed, too, like old desktop computer stations. The threadbare and worn carpet was removed and replaced with modern vinyl planking.”

He said that, except for the flooring, nothing new will be installed yet.

“By taking out the clutter, we’re rendering the space more flexible and suitable for modern education practices,” Baumann said.

Baumann is retiring from the district at the end of July, but plans are already in the works for next summer, when a new HVAC system will be installed at the high school.

“The HVAC replacement is in the original part of the high school,” Phillips said. “And we’re looking to change the ventilation system to a digital system from a pneumatic one. This will permit air conditioning in parts of the high school.”

Baumann said the HVAC bid went out a year in advance because of possible supply-chain issues.

“This way, the supplier has plenty of time to order material and equipment,” he said. 

The winning bid was awarded at the July 25 Glen Ridge Board of Education meeting. The board agenda noted Thassian Mechanical Contracting Inc., of Belford, with a winning bid of $1.82 million.

The work this summer is being accomplished by a mixture of workers, Baumann said. The shade structure and any flooring is being done by outside contractors. The district has a custodial staff of 19, who do all other work.