By Steven Mayer

On Dec. 11, 2012, the Robbinsville community approved a facility referendum designed to improve existing schools and add enough space to adequately provide for the district’s future. This successful vote was pivotal. Having voter support to remodel the oldest portions of Sharon School, reconfigure our classes to have preschool through fourth grade in one building, and increase the functionality and educational worth of both Pond Road and Sharon schools are significant steps for our community. Since December, we have been working tirelessly to develop the projects and appropriate timelines for completion.

An undertaking of this type consists of many preliminary steps before construction begins. We are required to develop and submit educational specifications to the New Jersey Department of Education as well as develop detailed drawings and bid documents for each component of the project. After each phase is advertised for bid, contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder and the project is managed to completion.

Phase I of the project includes the renovation of the cafeteria at Sharon School, double lock, “man trap” entrances at Pond and Sharon and the addition of three classrooms in the media center at Pond Road. These upgrades should be ready for students when we return to school in September. At this point, the specifications are complete, bids have been secured and awarded, and we are set to begin construction.

Phase II of the projects includes a 27-classroom addition to Sharon School, air-conditioning and remodeling in the oldest sections of Sharon, and the expansion of the cafeteria at Pond Road. We plan to solicit bids for these projects in June so that shovels can hit the ground during the summer months. We expect to have Phase II completed by September 2014. We have also developed guidelines for working with contractors during construction so that the normal routines of learning in our buildings are not disrupted.

Central to our planning is to develop projects that honor the community’s commitment to excellence while remaining on time and under budget. We are thrilled to have secured funding for these projects at an interest rate of 2.71 percent for the next 20 years. This means that even though construction costs are slowly shifting off of their all-time lows, we will get a high value from the dollars that are allocated.

Once complete, the projects will allow us to discontinue use of Windsor School and of the modular classrooms at Sharon. This will help us to realize budget savings and debt service relief. We are currently working with a local realty company to appraise the value of the Windsor property. Funds from a potential sale can reduce the overall amount of the loans for the construction work. In addition, the General Fund dollars that are currently allocated for temporary space can be used to help build programs where needed.

We are excited that the steps we are taking to plan for the future will result in long-term stability, which will help us develop the soundest plan for our future. Having implemented a sound plan for our buildings, the Robbinsville Schools are poised to realize their full potential.

Steven Mayer is the superintendent of Robbinsville schools.