The South Orange-Maplewood School District will be building an addition to to break ground in September.
The three-story addition (the basement is partially submerged) will provide three new classrooms and four new science labs — plus a prep room and new bathrooms — to help the middle school deal with increased enrollment.
along with numerous other capital projects by the Board of Edcuation in December and by the Board of School Estimate in January.
On March 13, the Maplewood PLanning Board performed a non-binding capital project review of the addition for the school district. Plans were presented by the School District's architects, Element Architectural Group. In a letter to school district business administrator Cheryl Schneider the Planning Board stated:
The Board recommended that the architects rethink the facade on the western side of the addition which was presented as a solid brick wall. The District's architects and in particular, Mr. Brian Altman, accepted the Planning Board's recommendations and stated that the west facade would be redesigned and the final design will have windows on the west wall compatible with the windows in the existing building and the other facades of the proposed addition to the extent possible. It was also represented that additional parking will be pursued for the increase in staff that this addition will generate.
In an email dated March 27, Jim Ruban of Element responded to the suggestions by noting that the architects had provided new plans that "better accentuate windows in the new stairwell corner of the North and West elevations."
However, the western wall of the expansion remains a mostly a solid brick facade.
Neighbor Chris Reardon says that the design ignores a "lot that has happened in the last ten years in sustainable design."
Reardon also views the approval process for the expansion as a "missed opportunity." Although the town and the school district have conformed to all legal requirements regarding approval of the expansion, Reardon notes that "as a lay person I think it needs more discussion."
Reardon is organizing a meeting of concerned parents and neighbors at the corner of Maple and Burnett this evening at 6:30 p.m.
Patch has reached out to the district for more information on the project and process and will publish that information when it becomes available.