LBI Board of Education, Parents Hope to See Modular Classrooms Installed Soon at Ethel Jacobsen School
The Long Beach Island Consolidated School District is still working to get modular classrooms installed on the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School grounds in Surf City to ease overcrowding, as the building currently houses all of the district’s students since Superstorm Sandy damaged the Long Beach Island Grade School in Ship Bottom.
“While there is no timeline for when the modular classrooms may be on-site, the board is hopeful that we will be able to provide these facilities as soon as possible,” explains a public statement posted on the district website, lbischools.org, at the end of last month.
Parents of the district’s schoolchildren also hope to see the trailers arrive soon.
“Many of the children and teachers in our community are still going through a rough time since the storm,” said Angela Contillo Andersen of North Beach Haven, the mother of two boys in the district. “Each and every one of them is adversely affected by the delay in the modular classrooms at the EJ School location.
“These kids deserve a better learning environment, and the teachers deserve a better teaching environment.”
In a letter to parents sent in early March, district Superintendent Karen T. McKeon explained, “Modular classrooms were secured and ready for installation on Jan. 3, 2013 to alleviate our overcrowded conditions,” and that the board just needed permits to move forward with the install.
Representatives from the district’s school board appeared before the Surf City Land Use Board and the Ship Bottom Land Use Board – as the EJ School property straddles land in both municipalities – to express “a desire to resolve the issue of modular classrooms as expeditiously as possible,” the statement on the district website reads.
Surf City Councilman Peter Hartney voiced concern about the planned location of the five trailers – on the Ship Bottom side of the property – which he believes would interfere with the use of the school fields as a helicopter emergency landing zone, and would also force students to walk across an active parking lot. He suggested a different location, and said he had proposed this idea to the project manager for Dicara Rubino Architects, with which the school board contracted for the trailers.
During the public session of that meeting, Dennis McKeever, an attorney for the school board, said the location chosen by the architectural firm was done so in accordance with a plan to eventually consolidate the two schools. Prior to Sandy, the board of education was attempting to sell the LBI School property, and would use the money from the sale to renovate and expand the E.J. School.
“A feasibility study was completed two years ago, which was intended to explore the possibility of combining the two schools,” McKeon wrote in her letter last month. “The board has been evaluating all of the options available to them since receiving the feasibility study. Architectural blueprints were prepared 1½ years ago to put an addition on the southeast side of the Ethel Jacobsen Elementary School. In an effort to keep all of their options open, the board sought to place the modular units on the Ship Bottom side of the board’s property.”
As McKeever explained at the Surf City LUB meeting, “We want to act as quickly as possible. Our intention is to help the students – it’s not anything more than that.
“Obviously the situation at the E.J. School is less than ideal, so having the space to move our students into these ‘mods’ would help our load. This is a situation we need to handle expeditiously; anything that can be done we appreciate.”
Hartney did fully agree that modular classrooms are are needed at the E.J. School as soon as possible, and he is confident the trailers will arrive at the location before the end of the current school year.
“We want it to move quickly, but we want it to move safely for the children,” he said at the time. “I would hope administrative hurdles would be bypassed, given our situation.”
As stated online, the school board considered comments from the Surf City Land Use Board requesting that the trailers be placed in the northeast corner of the E.J. School property, but determined that proposal “will not be practical given the Board of Education’s plans for the future of Ethel Jacobsen School.
“The plans that were submitted to Ship Bottom were the same plans that were shown to Surf City, which had the modular classrooms on the southerly side of the Ethel Jacobsen School. At the meeting, the Ship Bottom Land Use Board recommended that prior to installing the trailers, the Board of Education contact the New Jersey Department of Health, the Office of Emergency Management and/or the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that in the event of an emergency, the property may be used for emergency services, i.e. helicopter landing.”
The school board is currently contacting the suggested agencies to ensure that “emergency services have the ability to make emergency evacuations from Long Beach Island,” and anticipates filing for building permits soon.
Meanwhile, the LBI School – which sustained damage to the roof, gym floor, playground, ceiling, boiler system, electrical panels, transformers and condensors during Sandy – has been undergoing remediation to prevent further damage.
As Andersen remarked, “These kids are going be the future leaders of our community. Each person that lives here should care about them and the quality of their education and well-being. The storm has left them in a stressed situation and we all need to step up and make sure our local schools and kids are OK.”
— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch