Superintendent Chuck Klaus expanded on his in-depth presentation – including the why – of plans to use the recently acquired 144 Kings Highway West as an early childhood education center.
“It’s important to remember that this is a piece of a much bigger picture, which is our upcoming bond referendum,” Klaus said at the Haddonfield board of education’s May 25 session.
The 57-year-old building – expected to be open in about two years – has three levels and was historically used as a school building. With reconfigured parking, it will have 22 spaces in the rear and 28 in front, including four visitor and three accessibility spaces.
The facility’s lower level will include a cafeteria and kitchen, media center, art and music room, conference room, staff workroom and maintenance office. The first floor is slated to have 10 classrooms on the outer side, so each will have a window. The inner area will hold an occupational therapy/physical therapy space, speech rooms, a main office and conference and faculty rooms.
“Students will not be in the lower floor except for things they go down to for 40 minutes or 30 minutes at a time,” Klaus said. “No one will be stationed on the lower floor, in the basement, for the entire day.”
The building’s second floor will house eight classrooms, sensory and small-group instruction rooms, an activity area – not a gym, but a place where students can run and play indoors – and video conference rooms that, while small, will be important.
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from teachers and we wanted to make sure they could have meaningful conversations with confidentiality,” Klaus explained, though he added that some instructors expressed concern about a lack of privacy in their conversations with parents either in class or in the faculty room.
The superintendent also highlighted some of the improvements students will see when the building becomes a child-education center, including classrooms on the first and second floor rather than three in the basement and toilet facilities, among others.
Classroom size will grow to 862 square feet, higher than the current 825, a number still smaller than the 950 square feet required to receive funding from the state. Klaus referred to the issue as challenging and “a phenomenon that everyone is facing.”
Anticipated staff for the building will include a principal, office assistance, 25 teachers, 20 educational assistants, maintenance and custodial staff and cafeteria workers.
Total operating cost is estimated at $4.16 million, but because a lot of staffers are already accounted for in the current district budget, the additional cost comes to about $2.59 million. Estimated income is expected to be about $2.59 million for approximately 175 students paying $13,000 in tuition. Those numbers are not yet official.
Because the budget goes up 2% each year, Klaus noted that the board will have to find funds within that amount to avoid a tax increase.
In other news, in response to a comment made by a resident, the board discussed how to encourage more candidates for its upcoming elections.
The full board presentation is available for viewing at the district website.
The next board meeting will be Thursday, June 29, at 7 p.m.