Pinelands Regional Renovation Work Races Against Opening Day

District Is Promised Schools Will Be Ready September
Aug 01, 2017

The clock is ticking at the Pinelands Regional School District campus.

Students are scheduled to return to both the high school and junior high school on Sept. 7. But will the buildings be ready?

Workers have been busy this summer replacing the roofs of both schools. They’ve also been replacing the air conditioning system in all three wings of the junior high school. Three big projects, to be sure.

The Pinelands Regional Board of Education was assured on Monday evening that the work will be completed on time. Representatives of New Road Construction Management, a Cherry Hill firm hired to oversee the many projects resulting from public approval of three referendum questions totaling $53,645,527 in January, appeared at a board work session to give a project update.

“Time-wise, are both roofs OK?” asked Tuckerton board representative Kim Hanadel.

“Yeah,” responded Chuck Romanoli, a principal with the firm.

Romanoli, though, sounded a little less confident about the timeline for the HVAC work at the junior high.

“We’re hopeful they’re going to finish on time,” he told the board.

Board President Susan Ernst, who represents Little Egg Harbor, wasn’t pleased with the “hopeful” assessment.

“I happened to be in the junior high school on Friday and I only saw two people,” she said.

Bob Prate, the New Road site manager, said there were four people working on piping and insulation that day, while five more were doing ductwork.

“I walked through the whole building and saw two people,” Ernst repeated.

Prate insisted that the HVAC work was going smoothly, and that the only part of that project to be completed was the vertical shafts between the first and second floor. Meanwhile, he said, about 15 workers were hard at work on the junior high roof, while another 30 were so occupied at the high school, even working on Saturdays and Sundays.

Later in the meeting, The SandPaper pressed the issue of the junior high school being ready in time for the new school year, seeking elaboration on Romanoli’s less-than-robust assurance.

“I’m very confident,” said Prate.

As for the roofing jobs, the company’s representatives said most of the base sheet work – which involves asphalt – had been competed at the junior high. But only 60 to 70 percent had been done at the high school. The hang-up? Core samples had discovered asbestos in the section of roof at the high school between the auditorium and the front of the building, along with a much smaller patch over the entrance to the gymnasium. The asbestos would have to be removed before the project could continue.

The asbestos removal, said Prate, would begin on Wednesday. It should be removed and the “hot work” (asphalt) done by Aug. 15, he said. The final “capping,” which doesn’t create the smell associated with asphalt, can be done later, even after the students have returned.

One district employee was upset with the asbestos situation. He’d never been told there was asbestos in the building.

“There’s asbestos on your roof, but not in the building,” said Romanoli.

“I’ve been working in the high school for 12 years, and the roof has been leaking for those 12 years,” the employee responded. “You have an entire area of the school sealed off in plastic. And nobody is aware of it.”

The asbestos, he was told, was “encapsulated” and poses no threat until it is disturbed. It would be removed and air quality testing would be completed before people were allowed in the area again.

Board member Jeffrey Bonicky, also representing Little Egg Harbor, reduced the asbestos discussion to the simplest terms.

“On or in?” (the building), he asked and was told, “We don’t know of any asbestos in the building.”

Even if the roofing project is completed before school starts – and the New Road representatives seemed absolutely confident it would be – students, teachers and staff will have to be flexible considering interior renovations, including HVAC upgrades, will be worked on during the school year. Classes will have to be moved; New Road and contractors will have to work closely with district administrators to figure out schedules.

Ernst said she was concerned with the “communications problem.”

It was decided that business administrator Stephen Brennan would be the primary contact with New Road.

“We’re going to have a meeting with Steve and the principals in the next couple of weeks,” said Prate.

Toward the end of the presentation, Brooks Garrison of Garrison Architects displayed the architectural renderings of canopies to be installed at the entrances to both school buildings.

Board member Ann McDonald, of Little Egg Harbor, asked if solar panels could be attached to the metal frames. But Garrison said they would block out light. Besides, added Romanoli, “There just isn’t enough square footing to make it worth the while.”

— Rick Mellerup


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