NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The weather may have been chilly yesterday morning at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new A. Chester Redshaw Elementary School, but the excited smiles on the faces of the students there were enough to melt anyone’s heart.
The second-graders came to witness the first moments of construction for a $52 million school that has been more than eight years in the making. The process began in 2005, under the administration of Gov. Jim McGreevey, when officials proposed a plan to build a new school to replace Redshaw Elementary.
Since 2005, when the demolition of the old school occurred, students have been attending classes in a temporary school facility designed to be a warehouse on Jersey Avenue.
Unfortunately that same year, the state agency in charge of school construction projects placed a moratorium on new building projects across the state.
This caused all plans for construction on the Redshaw School to be put on hold for the next eight years, before the Mayor’s office finally got word that construction could begin. The school is expected to open within 15-18 months, in time for the 2014-2015 school year.
“Normally when we do groundbreakings, you know, I’m very upbeat and I am today,” said Mayor James Cahill, as he began his remarks at yesterday’s ceremony.
“But if anyone was looking to do a case study on how to not develop a new school, I can tell you that the A. Chester Redshaw would be prime example number one.”
Residents, construction workers, and city officials gathered in front of the construction site on Delavan Street, where they heard speeches from Cahill, State Senator Bob Smith, Superintendent of Schools Richard Kaplan, Board of Education President Ed Spencer, and School Development Authority (SDA) CEO Mark Larkins.
Also on hand were SDA board members Mario Vargas and Kevin Egan, who also serves as a City Councilman, but noticeably absent was Gov. Chris Christie.
It was evident there was a sense of accomplishment from those who fought for the construction of the school.
In his speech, Larkins described the plans for the new school, a 135,000 square foot, 2-story building with space for 900 students in grades Pre-K through 5.
The new building will contain 46 classrooms, including 12 for special education, a cafeteria, a multi-purpose room, a gymnasium, and a media center. Most importantly, the site will include a playground that will be shared with the adjacent Livingston Elementary School.
Now that construction is officially underway, the students of New Brunswick, along with their parents and teachers once again have something to look forward to.
In a unique gesture, officials broke ground on the new facility alongside eager students who will eventually be the first fourth-graders to attend the new school.
Donning their hard hats, the youngsters helped shovel out the first mound of dirt.
“See that dirt mound over there? That’s where we will dig the hole and build your new school,” Superintendent Kaplan told the children, according to a report on New Brunswick’s Patch.com.
Larkins called this project the first of several projects that the SDA will be collaborating with Kaplan’s office on.
“I hope that the students who have the opportunity to attend this world-class facility will make the most of it and will go on to do great things in their lives and continue to give back to their respective communities.”
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.