Pinelands Regional Schools Open on Time With No Major Incidents

Referendum Projects Are All Completed Save for the Shouting
By Rick Mellerup | Sep 25, 2019

Little Egg Harbor Township — Both of the Pinelands Regional School District’s buildings, the high and junior high schools, opened on schedule this September with no major problems.

“First and foremost, I’d like to thank the board of education and a sincere thank-you to our staff for a wonderful opening,” said Superintendent of Schools Melissa McCooley when launching her superintendent’s report at the Sept. 18 meeting of the district’s board of education. “It was definitely a fight to the finish, but we got it done, we came together as a school community, and I can’t express in words how proud I am of our Wildcat family for pulling it off. We’re open, kids are happy, it’s been a really great school opening, and thank you.”

There were, McCooley said, a few minor bumps in the opening.

“I also want to report that not everything is 100 percent right now. As I explained to the staff, it would not be. They’ve been extremely patient. We’re still waiting on getting some books deployed; some TVs are not up all the way. We had staff coming in on the weekends, we had volunteers coming in on the weekends, and the staff has been great with it. So we are going through some minor things right now getting everything up and ready to go, but we have had the support of the staff, and students are learning, and we’re getting there.

“The first home football game was amazing! Thank you to the board members who attended and thank you to the community for coming out and supporting our team. It just was an awesome, awesome night. My husband and I were there with my 8-year-old, and he was overwhelmed with how many people were there. It was a really great event.”

Brian Moore of Epic Construction Management, the company overseeing the work at both schools this past year, and John Bellone, the district’s supervisor of buildings and grounds, also had good news when giving their facilities report.

“One pleasurable thing to say is the word ‘aggressive’ does not have to be used regarding schedules,” joked Moore, who had repeatedly said throughout the summer the district was on an aggressive schedule in order to open on time. “We’re at the wrap-up of finalization and adjustments and moving-in issues and resolution’ so we’re in good shape.”

The roofs at both the high school and junior high had been completed, Moore said. The work on the district’s athletic complex had been finalized, including an illuminated path from the high school to the football stadium, which was in use at the team’s opening night game. The site improvement and pavement at the junior high – the three-lane bus loop behind the building – was done. The masonry work at the high school was completed, as were renovations at both schools.

“So right now we can almost put the book to bed,” said Moore.

Bellone said he’d been working on the punch list at the high school for a week and expected to complete that by the next day, when he’d move on to the junior high.

“We should be able to go for the (Little Egg Harbor Township) C.O. (certificate of occupancy), I hope, within the next week or so.”

The biggest sign that the district’s opening had gone fairly smoothly there were no parents at the meeting berating the administration and board. Over the course of the last couple of years when things had gone sour with the over $53 million of projects approved by voters in a referendum in January 2017, large and sometimes angry crowds used to show up at board meetings. There were only a couple of members of the public at the Sept. 18 meeting.

So the board’s and McCooley’s hopes that Pinelands can get off to a fresh start in the 2019-20 school year seem to be coming true.

Rick Mellerup

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