Public’s Input Sought For School District Community Rooms At Consolata

Schools Superintendent John Ravally speaks during the gathering at Franklin Park School.

Some of the rooms will be ready to use by early next month, but township officials want the public’s input on designing the rest of the public spaces at the Board of Education’s new administrative campus on Route 27.

The board acquired the buildings at the former Consolata Mission property through a land swap with the Township Council last year.

In the deal, the district got an approximately 13-acre parcel of land with three buildings on the former Consolata property, and the township got about six acres and the former Middlebush School on Amwell Road. The district has been using the school for its administrative offices.

As a result of the deal, which will see the district’s administrative offices and facilities department move to Consolata, the township will also regain control of the former municipal building across Amwell from the school, which it has been renting to the district.

The township gets first dibs on the use of the community rooms, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said.

Township Council and school board members convened the October 28 meeting at Franklin Park School. Featured were representatives from SSP, the architectural firm hired to redo the spaces.

The meeting’s topic was four of the rooms in one of the buildings that are targeted to be used as community space. Included in that list is a 1,036-square-foot meeting room – the former chapel – 917-square-foot and 686-square-foot training/adult education classrooms, and a 295-square-foot staff/break room.

A 3,000-square-foot multipurpose room is just about ready to be used for the November 5 election, schools Superintendent John Ravally said.

Also just about ready for use are two offices the district will use – one for parent services and one for the district’s meal service – but Ravally said they may not be moved into until next year.

Ravally said the meeting was to ensure the most efficient and cost-effective use of the community rooms.

“The last thing you want to do is change, change, and change purpose,” Ravally said. “You identify a purpose, give these folks some direction, and they can economically design something that’s a benefit for all.”

“If we constantly change the purpose and program that were going to host in there, that makes it more difficult to design and usually increases the cost factor if you’re doing it afterword,” he said. “It’s important to have some kind of an understanding of what the community envisions in these spaces.”

SSP’s Jeanne Perantoni said that the rooms could be designed in such a way that they could be used by multiple groups.

“They are very flexible, very changeable, and can really accommodate many programs as they evolve over time,” she said.

She said that can be accomplished by simply moving chairs or changing the size or shape of tables, in conjunction with mobile technology.

“We can have tables and chairs that can be stacked and moved away,” she said. We can have lectures, training. Everything should be infused with technology. There will be a wireless backbone. For those who do not have it, the idea is to have mobile carts … the whole idea is to make it as accessible as possible.”

She said teh rooms could be outfitted with lockable storage cabinets used by groups to hold what they need for their meetings.

She said teh former chapel is “large enough that you could have a small portable stage. You could have performances, you could have theater in the round.”

Attendees were given schematics of the rooms and asked to fill in their ideas for future uses. The schematics can be returned to Township Clerk Anne Marie McCarthy at the municipal building at 475 DeMott Lane.

Ravally said SSP is looking to have all of these ideas submitted by the end of December.

“They’d like the spring time to absorb what the community has for input,” he said.

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