Sunday, January 27, 2019

My Take on the Woodland School Plan and the Open House

Plainfield will get a brand new elementary school and the state is paying for it.  The New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) will direct the project and they were out in force last week at the open house to share information on the new school.  Residents may have noticed the fencing around Woodland School.  Less obvious are the classroom trailers behind Cook School currently housing the Woodland students and teachers.

Parents, school personnel, elected officials and local residents filled the high school cafeteria (while across the hall the Plainfield boys basketball team was trouncing Lawrence!).  After some speeches by SDA folks, Mayor Mapp, Assemblywoman Carter and School Board President Richard Wyatt, attendees were invited to go to tables manned by project managers.

I thought it odd that there was no question and answer period for the audience.  But I wandered over to the site plan table where I saw that the new school will be positioned right against Woodland Ave., a concern I took up later with a Planning Board member who was present.  I also saw that the soccer field will be preserved and there may even be an opportunity for lighting to extend its usage into the evenings.  Plainfield needs more playing field availability and I hope we advocate successfully for that.

I learned that the new school will absorb Cook School and will have a capacity of 700+.  I'm not a fan of big schools and am disappointed to hear that Cook will be "decommissioned".  School officials justify this plan by saying that our old buildings are obsolete and don't support the technology our students deserve.  I could argue this point but will simply say that Cook and Woodland are not old buildings and could be upgraded instead of replaced.

My main concerns are the size and position of the school with no setback from Woodland Ave. Still, there are significant positives in this project and it is a done deal.

One other concern of a technical nature. This project do not come before the Planning Board for capital review.  Why did that happen?  That would have been the forum to discuss traffic, pedestrian safety, soccer field lights and many other important concerns. 

This is a done deal and there is much I do not know about the project and the school districts capital plans.  Prior to the next project, I hope the school district will hold another open house and do so before anything is approved.  It would also be good government for a public session to present the entire district capital plan.

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