As part of the flurry of school construction that has started occurring in Hudson County as of late, a new elementary school is being planned for the corner of 55th and Jackson Streets in West New York. It’s slated for completion in 2006.
The school, a replacement for School No. 3 which is currently located at 54th and Polk streets, will be a completely new building boasting many amenities that current West New York schools lack.
According to the designer of the project, Geoff Doban of the New York City-based design firm Gruzen Samton, the design of the school will be unlike anything currently in West New York.
Said Doban, "We plan to incorporate the latest and best planning concepts and new technology into our designs."
West New York has put into action a comprehensive plan to replace or refurbish every single school in the district. According to a West New York Board of Education source, Memorial High School has already seen the beginnings of a $9 million refurbishment. This past summer, the school received new windows, a new roof and new exterior staircases. The source went on to add that Memorial will be receiving a brand new updated air conditioning system next summer.
In January, West New York Director of Facilities Richard Loschiavo told the Reporter, "Schools One [on Madison Street], Three [on Polk Street], Four [On 66th Street], Five [on Hudson Avenue] and Six [also known as the Harry L. Bain School, on Broadway] are slated to be replaced." Added Loschiavo, "Schools Three, Four and Six will be getting new buildings in new locations, and schools One and Five will be torn down and rebuilt." This ambitious project is being paid for, according to Loschiavo, with state funds overseen by the Economic Development Authority.
This ambitious plan for school refurbishment and reconstruction undoubtedly has much to do with West New York Mayor and ex-Memorial High student and teacher Albio Sires. Sires has made school reconstruction and support for education a cornerstone of his administration. Sires has made no bones about his desire to see West New York schools rise to a level of prominence that transcends and exceeds their designation as an Abbott "special needs" District.
At an October, 2002 groundbreaking for a new middle school scheduled to be completed by August 2004, the mayor welled with emotion when speaking about the schools and the teachers who man them.
West New York Superintendent of Schools Anthony Yankovich affirmed the mayor’s effusive attitude toward the schools. Said Yankovich, "Mayor Sires is a driving force behind this. He’s very excited about the situation. He’s an ex-educator, so obviously, he is 110 percent behind the schools."
Natural light, new layouts
According to Geoff Doban, the chief designer of the new School No. 3, completely new ideas will be integrated into the design of the school. Said Doban, "Some of the goals are to maximize open space within the site. Also to maximize the use of natural light."
Doban also mentioned that the State of New Jersey has mandated that any newly-built school be as energy conservative as possible. To this end, the new schools that are to be built in West New York will minimize the use of florescent lighting and maximize the use of windows allowing natural light to flow in to the learning spaces.
According to Doban, another interesting facet of the design process is that the firm is taking ideas from many sources as to what the school should look like and what facilities it should include.
Said Doban, "One of the things we do is spend a lot of time with the school community [teachers, administrators, etc.] because they have to be involved in the design process." Doban admitted that the process can be daunting. "There’s limited budgets, limited space. It’s tough. What we will wind up designing is a balance between what everyone wants and what can really be done in reality."
Added Doban, "It’s something you really have to keep an open mind about."
According to Superintendent Yankovich, School No. 3, from a design perspective, will mirror many of the other schools in West New York that are set to be built in the near future.
Said Yankovich, "We’re really excited about this. Instead of having the schools as they currently are, which is K though eight, with the addition of the new schools, we will have much more traditional class layouts. Elementary schools will house Pre-K though sixth grades, middle schools will have seventh and eighth grades and Memorial will have ninth through 12th grades. Right now, the K through eight situation is very crowded. The new schools will definitely help that situation."
Yankovich also mentioned that the new School No. 3, when completed in the Spring of 2006, will house 700 students and boast amenities that will hopefully make the learning experience that much richer for the students.
Said Yankovich, "The concept going forward is that each of the new schools can be used as a functioning part of the community, not just a school. Aesthetically, we want the schools to fit the neighborhoods they’re in. Being in a urban area, the schools need to function on as many levels as possible within the community."
As an example of the new design, Yankovich said that the new school will have, instead of the traditional "cafetorium" (a large room that is used as an auditorium, gymnasium and cafeteria), separate and distinct areas. The school will have a cafeteria, an auditorium for assemblies and performances, and a gymnasium that will be used solely for athletic activities.
According to designer Geoff Doban, "Our firm has been really impressed with the academic programs and the school administration in general in West New York. We’ve met with the mayor and he is obviously an enthusiastic supporter of education and school construction."
Though many of these school construction projects are slated for completion a few years from now, the end result will be a vast improvement in how students are educated in West New York.