Watchung HVAC
Watchung School
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

It could be winter before work officially starts on the overhaul of Watchung School’s HVAC system.

The Board of Education rejected the only bid that had been submitted on a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in May, because it came in over budget.

Superintendent Kendra Johnson said that the district had decided to reject the submitted bid at the advice of Parette Somjen, the district’s architects of record. The board had approved going out to bid with the estimated cost of $776,000 for the project. Johnson would not say how far over budget the bid was.

The board will rebid in August and review bids in late October. From there, if the board accepts a bid, construction will be done “from second shift from November to April,” Johnson said.

In 2017, parents told the board of education that the building’s auditorium, which was used as a gathering point at the start of the day and the end of the day, became uncomfortably warm during periods of warm weather. It was also alleged that some children were fainting or throwing up.

Selma Avdicevic, currently the president of the Watchung PTA, told the Montclair Local in 2017 that the building was “like a sauna” on some days. She said that children with asthma or allergies were also at risk due to fans circulating in allergens such as dust and pollen from outside.

On Monday, Avdicevic said that the problems had continued to persist, and that parents were disappointed that the work had been delayed somewhat.

“We have had as many reports of heat affecting children’s health as we did in the past, despite everyone’s concerned effort to adjust the schedule of events, so the issues would be minimized. We were really looking forward to providing the students with a better and healthier learning environment, and are very upset that this project has been postponed once again.”

The Watchung HVAC project was included on a list of capital projects as a “priority project.”

The other priority projects on the list, which Parette Somjen compiled last fall and presented to the BOE in December, include the Fortunato and Woodman fields projects, which also had bids rejected this year.