A closed-off staircase at Montclair High School.
PHOTO COURTESY NATHANIEL WODNICK

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair Board of School Estimate approved a $2 million bond for staircase repairs and asbestos removal at Montclair High School Tuesday night, Jan. 15.

The five-person board – Mayor Robert Jackson, council members William Hurlock and Rich McMahon, and board of education members Laura Hertzog and Jessica de Koninck – unanimously approved the $2,031,000 bond in a short meeting at the municipal building. Superintendent Kendra Johnson and School Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea were also present.

The money will be used to remove asbestos and replace four staircase towers at the high school after one of the staircases partially collapsed in September. Work is expected to be done over the summer, after asbestos is removed in May.

Asbestos removal is estimated to cost $600,000, while $850,000 will go toward staircase construction. There is additional $50,000 on closing costs. The balance of about $531,000 is the amount the district has already put out in consulting fees, work done and the trailer rentals.

The district has budgeted $316,000 for four classroom trailers. That money will not be covered by the township, since the trailers are a temporary rather than a permanent response, he said.

None of the work is covered by insurance, said Johnson.

“The insurance company determined the repair was wear and tear of the building,” she said.

The district is in the process of inspecting all buildings within the district. Glenfield, Nishuane, the high school, Hillside, Watchung and Northeast have been inspected with reports of roof trusses at Glenfield and staircases at Nishuane in need of repairs. No estimate has been released on these repairs.

Bullock, Bradford, Edgemont, Renaissance, Buzz Aldrin still need inspections, which are expected to be completed by February.

After the vote, de Koninck brought up the subject of other capital improvements at the schools that may be needed in the future. “Just because we’ve done this complete evaluation, doesn’t mean something can happen tomorrow,” said board member Jessica de Koninck.

De Koninck said that with the exception of Charles H. Bullock’s schools, all of Montclair’s schools are over 100 years old, and showing their age. “And it’s 2019, and our kids are in buildings that were built in 1910,” de Koninck said. She mentioned also that other districts have buildings of similar age to Montclair’s.

Jackson said it was possible that other districts have been doing preventative maintenance that Montclair had not been.

When Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh made an appearance in Montclair, a sound truck had to be brought in, because the high school auditorium’s sound system was not sufficient, de Koninck said. She also noted that air conditioning is a problem in the buildings as well.

“We don’t have anywhere else to build schools. We have to fix the schools we have and make them safe,” Hertzog said.