Jackson Schools Talk Security & Transportation Improvements

(Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

JACKSON – Board of Education members got a full review of the priority plans and estimated costs concerning security upgrades, facility improvements and transportation department changes during a Feb. 13 board meeting.

The presentations came as part of the budgetary preparation process. The district is preparing to present its new school budget next month and hold its public hearing in April.

Tier I projects were presented in a PowerPoint format by the district’s director of buildings and grounds, Edward J. Ostroff. His presentation included new security systems at the vestibules of the Switlik Elementary School and the Goetz Middle School. The system would allow for automatic locking and would allow an individual to be allowed into the vestibule and then a secondary access point would either be opened or not upon further confirmation. The first entrance would not be able to lock in whoever was present.

Ostroff said that “the doors would now be locked all the time whereas before a staff member could possibly forget to lock the door.”

Jackson Board of Education President listens to a budget presentation during a Feb. 13 board meeting. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Facility projects include asphalt paving at the student entrance of the Jackson Memorial High School, and asphalt resurfacing of that school’s tennis courts. Jackson Liberty High School’s tennis courts are also in need of asphalt resurfacing.

Board member Michael Walsh noted “the temperature got very hot on the courts during this summer.”

Flooring issues at Jackson Memorial High School was another proposed project along with switchgear at the high school. Noticing the duct tape in place in the PowerPoint photograph of the electrical system, Board member Sharon Dey joked “duct tape seems to fix everything” but acknowledged the issue needed attention.

Board members also looked at modular siding improvements and a solar array guardrail at Jackson Liberty High School.

Referring to the guardrail issue, Dey said that this area had proved to be a concern. “People drive like maniacs around there.”

Vice Board President Vicki Grasso said she liked the idea of installing speed bumps for that area.

Floor repairs to the gymnasiums at the McAuliffe Middle School and Elms Elementary School were also on the Tier 1 list.

Others items not included on the Tier 1 list that will require future attention include several additional expenditures of buildings and grounds equipment in the form of a refuse and recycling truck.

Ostroff said a 1991 recycle truck which is in poor condition will need to be retired. It would be replaced with a 2006 Mack truck currently in service that would be modified to become a recycle vehicle. The estimated cost for this would be $260,000. Another truck, possibly to be leased, would also be put into service. “Usually after 15 years you look to replace this kind of vehicle and here this one is from 1991,” Ostroff said.

Vestibule security improvements are being planned at two of the district’s 10 schools. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Tier II projects were of lesser priority, had a budget of $729,975, and involved the district’s building integrity/program upgrades and energy saving initiatives. The district noted a substantial reduction in its energy budget for 2018-2019 of $289,000 resulting in a two-year saving of more than $700,000. All 10 of the district’s schools are Bronze certified through the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Program. The district received three grants as a result of its participation in this state program.

Tier III projects featured in the presentation had a cost estimate of $27,873,000 and included major capital projects, roof projects and building upgrades.

Susan Spence, the district’s director of transportation, then reported on what her department has been doing to improve its operation. The department’s staff includes Spence, an assistant director, an assistant transportation coordinator, a bus coordinator, a transportation secretary, a supervisor of fleet maintenance, one head mechanic and four mechanics.

The staff also includes three mechanics helpers, two utility fuelers, a second shift fleet maintenance supervisor, head mechanic and three mechanics of which two are open.

“We have two mechanics for our second shift but we haven’t filled them as we are not getting quality applicants,” Spence said.

Spence noted the continued problem of a lack of bus drivers but added that the district has 30 contracted bus aides. The district has 106 contracted bus drivers and 14 substitute drivers. The district has 30 bus aides and 6 substitute bus aides.

Spence also noted that “our mileage has increased over the years. We are trying to tighten it up.”

Mileage went from 1,228,255 miles during the 2015-2016 year to 1,327,561 miles in 2016-2017.

Fuel used totaled 290,939 gallons in 2015-2016 and 265,561 gallons last year. The anticipated fuel total for this year is estimated at 283,078 gallons.

The district had a total of 9,102 in district pupils in 2017 and this year’s total is expected to drop to 8,901.

Jackson Board of Education member Sharon Dey listens to a budget presentation during a Feb. 13 board meeting. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Non-public students transported by the district was at 796 in 2016-2017 while this school year’s total is 858. Aid-in-lieu (non public) was 390 during the last school year and climbed to 610 this school year.

District vehicles on the road include 119 54-passenger vehicles in 2017 which dropped to 115 during this current school year. The district had 48 vans last year and 42 this year and two cars in 2017 with one serving the district now.

“I don’t’ see busses sitting idle any more. It is good to see,” School Board President Scott Sargent said.

Spence said the district has observed an increase of wheelchair bound students which are being accommodated for.

“We are moving in the right direction. Safety is our number one priority. Our work orders are down as we are doing more preventative maintenance and being proactive rather than reactive,” Spence said.

She added that staff members “don’t leave the office until the last bus comes in which is about 4:30 p.m. or quarter of 5.”

Prior to adjourning to a closed session, Dey noted that the district had received a “long list of staff in all departments who are retiring. Congrats to all of those on their retirement.”

Board members also heard a presentation by Superintendent Dr. Stephen Genco, who provided a general overview concerning the district’s guidance and technology departments, athletics and co-curricular activities and special education program.