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In the halls of DePaolo Middle School. Both schools have ceilings exposed. | Citizen photo by Julie Sopchak

Amidst construction, middle schools running smoothly

Going back to school is a hectic time. Throw a multi-million dollar renovation plan that requires heavy construction on top of that, and it could be a bit chaotic, but administrators at DePaolo and Kennedy middle schools have found the start-up to be rather smooth and construction is moving right on schedule.

“I think it’s going as well as can be expected and we’re improving every day,” said Chris Palmieri, vice principal for DePaolo and also vice chairman of the Middle School Building Committee, which orchestrated the development and design for the project.

Currently, both schools have blocked off three entrances/exits, but two more have been created, leaving one less doorway for use. There is a buzzer and security camera installed at each school as well as a security guard at the temporary main entrances.

Kennedy Principal Steven Madancy said arrivals and dismissals have been a bit hairy because of the high volume of cars picking up and dropping off, the volume of which he said has increased “tenfold” compared to previous years.

Friday morning, Madancy was out in the parking lot at Kennedy trying to troubleshoot congestion issues.

Madancy said he thinks it might have to do with parents being curious about the situation at the school; i.e. how kids are getting in and out or whether or not they come into contact with construction workers, which is never supposed to happen with the way construction is phased. Currently, most of the work is being done outside. The gymnasiums at both schools are being worked on, but are completely blocked off so no students have access to them. Both gyms should be completed by Nov. 1. After that, new construction will begin, so workers will not be inside the building.

“I think a lot of it is they need to be reassured, so they’re more curious so they’re taking their kids so they can check things out themselves,” Madancy said. “But I’m hoping once that’s been alleviated, that they can consider putting their children on the bus.”

Kennedy Assistant Principal Pamela Aldi, on the other hand, said she chose to remain optimistic and think it’s just a matter of kids and parents running late, trying to get back into the swing of things.

“I’m hoping that’s what it is,” Aldi said.

Madancy said he put out large requests for parents to put their kids on the bus rather than driving them. At DePaolo, Palmieri and Principal Frank Pepe said arrivals and dismissals have been moving fairly smoothly, especially with the new bus loop.

“We can have all the buses in at once which we could never do before,” Pepe said.

Palmieri said most of the confusion is with kids not knowing their bus numbers, but that happens even without construction.

As for the kids themselves, both schools reported the kids have been “unfazed” about the work and have moved along with their days accordingly.

“Some of the kids make comments they even like the ceiling because they can see how everything works,” Palmieri said. “It’s temporary, but at least you can get an understanding of how the school runs.”

Another major concern has been the air quality and the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls, but both schools have passed air quality tests and are meeting guidelines set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. Guidelines have different levels of standards for high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools – elementary being the strictest. Pepe said DePaolo met the standards of the elementary level.

“We are adhering to a higher standard,” Palmieri said.

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