Among a small but interested gathering of borough residents, alumni, as well as past and present school district employees, the Haddonfield Board of Education held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 4 to commemorate the completion of projects included in a $35 million, district-wide referendum.
The ceremony took place outside the B-wing of Haddonfield Memorial High School, along Sylvan Lake Avenue, just prior to the public being allowed to peruse the recently completed construction, which included a new cafeteria, dance studio, gymnasium and athletic offices.
“It’s great to have things completed. A lot of hard work and thought went into this. The gym is an iconic thing; it would have been easier to tear it down and build a box, but they didn’t do that, they kept true to that thing that Haddonfield loved, said interim assistant superintendent Chuck Klaus, who previously served as principal of the high school.
“The cafeteria is modern and it’s great for the kids to finally have that space. It was a tough go. For two-and-a-half years, we were eating in hallways and stuff like that, and just to see the kids enjoying the new space is a wonderful thing.”
Among district principals in attendance were Superintendent Larry Mussoline, school board president Adam Sangillo, board member and chair of both the Facilities Committee and Referendum Committee, Susan Kutner, HMHS interim principal Tammy McHale and high-school director of athletics Lefteris Banos. Assemblyman Louis Greenwald from the 6th Legislative District also lent his support.
The referendum, which included three proposals, was passed in March 2016. On the ballot, borough residents were asked to vote on the following within the first question specifically regarding the high school: repairs to the A-wing roof and modified C-wing roof replacement, which included roof deck repairs and related work; in the B-wing, gym exterior wall reconstruction and structural repairs, including new windows, doors and roof repairs; comprehensive reconstruction of the cafeteria on its existing footprint, including structure for rooftop mechanical units and reconfigured cafeteria, kitchen, toilet rooms and dance studio.
“It’s exciting to see some of the work that’s been done and know that it was done well. That’s what we were tasked to do from the beginning. These projects are long. I think it’s something we can be proud of, not just for how it looks and how it feels inside, but for how it was done well and on budget. There’s still work to be done. It’s the kind of work we’re happy to see and know that this specific chapter has come to an end,” said Sangillo.
Also included within the referendum question were provisions to reconfigure and combine existing offices into a STEAM lab, planned upgrades to HVAC systems, lighting, drainage, piping, reconstruction of exterior concrete steps and sidewalks, as well as clock and data system upgrades.
“As a parent, I’m like any other taxpayer: You want the kids to have nice things, but you understand that there’s a balance and you still want it to be affordable for the town. Only a third of our families have children in the district so, we have to be mindful of our spending, and I think most parents understand that and they’re appreciative, but it is their tax dollars to the education system to provide the backbone to our borough. I’m excited my kids get to witness the whole process,” added Sangillo.
With some students having felt the crunch when looking for space to eat and relax for a significant portion of their time at the high school, consensus from staff seemed to be that they are taking to the new construction enthusiastically.
“Basically, the kids are loving the open space. They are in everything except for the gym, which we should be opening up to them shortly, once the locker rooms open up,” said McHale.
“It’s been wonderful watching them eat in the cafeteria and have the space to learn and hang out with their friends and have some down time. We didn’t realize how many sacrifices were being made until we opened (everything) back up and realized how much our students had endured and how well they’d been handling everything.”
On the second floor of the B-wing is an expanded HMHS athletic Hall of Fame, which covers an entire wall and includes plaques of every inducted member along with their respective bios.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time, and I hope everyone is as proud of it as we are. I’ve been in this position working for other school districts, but I have to say it’s really special doing it in my own town where my kids are educated,” added Kutner, former board vice president.