UPDATE: Roosevelt Elementary Re-opening After Sprinkler System Rupture

UPDATE (5:40PM): New Brunswick's school district announced it won't be sending kids to the warehouse school after all, crediting "impressive, around-the-clock coordination" between New Brunswick Public Schools maintenance teams, the office of New Brunswick Mayor James M. Cahill, city personnel, the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management, and school district administrators and teachers.

"Students will be returning to New Brunswick's Roosevelt Elementary School much sooner than originally anticipated. In fact, they'll be going back tomorrow (Wednesday, October 7) — and should report to classes as regularly scheduled."

"Cleanup and repairs at the 83 Livingston Avenue building progressed with remarkable quickness. Initial projections were that Roosevelt School – which sustained water and electrical damage when a sub-basement sprinkler supply line burst during the early hours of Monday morning — might not be ready to house students again for several weeks."

"A discussion about make-up days will take place within the next several weeks," the statement continued.

"The district will utilize generators to provide necessary function to the building, with emphasis on such essential, code items as lighting, alarms, water, and restroom facilities."

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–After flooding damage to a city elementary school on Livingston Avenue, 899 students in grades K-5 will be "temporarily relocated" to a warehouse almost two miles away on October 7.

Just hours before school was set to start on Monday, October 5, the "rupture of a sprinkler system supply line" in Roosevelt Elementary School caused "water and limited electrical damage at the sub-basement level, rendering the building temporarily unusable."

"Initial projections are that work could take several weeks to complete, though this timeline is subject to change," reads a statement from the district.

As a result, after two days off, students will now be bused to and educated in "Building 40," an industrial warehouse on Van Dyke Avenue.  The infamous "warehouse school," and another one next to it, are owned by Robert Paulus, the wealthy developer behind Woodbridge-based Wick Properties.

The relocation announcement came in the form of a Nixle emergency alert, and a press statement drafted by Parsippany-based Success Communications Group, marking a change in the way the district handles public relations.

Previously, the district had no public relations staff member or contractor.

"Also known locally as the 'Swing Space,' Building 40 contains more than 40 classrooms, a full kitchen and cafeteria, gymnasiums, a media center and all other required, core spaces," reads the statement, which does not include the word "warehouse."

"Designed specifically to serve as a school — and used for that purpose for many years — Building 40 is scheduled to house district students later in the current school year while another district building is renovated," reads the statement.

When New Brunswick Today interviewed new Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson in August, he indicated he was not in favor of using "Building 40" as a full-time school due to concerns about the safety and layout of the building.

But, in a jam, the warehouse school, which is already leased by the NJ Schools Development Authority (NJSDA), may be the district's last best option.  Most of its facilities are at or near capacity, if not overcrowded.

"The safety and well-being of our students is always paramount, and I'm confident Building 40 provides an excellent, short-term educational alternative," reads the statement's quote from Johnson, who started in the district's top job on July 1.

"Of course, this is a challenging situation — but as an educator, I'm always focused on recognizing learning opportunities," Johnson continued.

"I believe these repairs at Roosevelt School represent an excellent opportunity for families to speak with their children about the 'curve-balls' we sometimes face. I'm confident these young people will ultimately thrive under these unexpected circumstances – after all, their school motto is 'I can, I will, I must.'"

Most students are still being asked to walk to Roosevelt School on Wednesday, where they will "then make the 10- to 15-minute bus ride to Building 40," said the statement.

"They will be accompanied by security personnel and some of the school's 118 faculty and staff."

"Repairs to Roosevelt School are already underway, and cleanup has begun as well," read the statement.  "Discussions are also ongoing with the insurance provider, to ensure taxpayers won't be burdened with repair costs."

"Further, updated information on repairs and cleanup at Roosevelt School – located at 83 Livingston Avenue – will be forthcoming, as additional details become available."

The statement included one error: "The structure is owned by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority."

New Brunswick Today pointed out that the building was actually privately-owned and leased by the NJSDA, leading to clarification.

"Yesterday afternoon's news release from New Brunswick Public Schools… indicated that Building 40, at 40 Van Dyke Avenue, New Brunswick, is owned by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority."

"In fact, Building 40 is leased by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.  We apologize for any confusion."

Editor at New Brunswick Today | 732-993-9697 | editor@newbrunswicktoday.com

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 and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.