The Montclair High School staircase project is done, and several elementary schools received overhauls to their front steps over the past year.  Now Buzz Aldrin Middle School is going to get some staircase repairs of its own.

Work still to come include masonry and cornice repairs at several of the school buildings, a project that is expected to continue well into the next year.

At the Jan. 22 Board of Education meeting, district architect Parette Somjen presented an overview of recently completed projects and an overview projects slated for this year.

The proposed total budget for repairs and maintenance projects for 2020-2021 is $1,205,000. That amount includes $300,000 for the maintenance reserve, $785,000 for repairs and maintenance, and $120,500 for general supplies. The budget for all of the masonry repairs has yet to be determined.


Masonry repairs

The masonry repairs were included as a district-wide priority project, with all 11 schools and the administration and Pre-K buildings requiring various repairs over the next year.

The list of repairs includes brick repointing, waterproofing, replacement of cornices and lintels (on school buildings that have them), and replacing the cupola at Glenfield Middle School.

The bidding process will start in July, with construction to begin in the summer and continue into 2021.

At Buzz Aldrin Middle School, a priority list assembled in 2018 put the anticipated price tag for the cornice repairs at $451,250. An inspection found that pieces of the cornice had started to detach from the building’s lintel.

The Jan. 22 report from Parette Somjen also identified several weak points along the upper-level masonry at Edgemont and Hillside. 

Building inspections

At Montclair High School, the recently completed projects include an overhaul of the four staircases in the original 1914 section of the building. One of the staircases partially collapsed just after the first day of school in September 2018. All four staircases were closed off at the recommendation of Parette Somjen. The construction process was complicated by the discovery of asbestos in the walls.

In the wake of the stair collapse at Montclair High School, the district and the architects began inspections of all of the school buildings to identify any potential issues that need to be addressed.

In November, the reconstruction on the stairs was completed.

At the high school, there has also been an overhaul of some of the restrooms, and new paving in the parking lot.

Some of the completed projects include:

  • A new retaining wall at Renaissance.
  • Paving at Montclair High School.
  • New steps and paving at Edgemont, Nishuane and Watchung.
  • An overhauled turf surface at Fortunato Field.
  • A new track surface at Woodman Field.

At Glenfield Middle School, a classroom had to be closed off last year after an inspection found a weakened truss in the attic directly overhead. The truss has since been repaired. The attic is expected to receive new insulation as well, and Nishuane and Edgemont are expected to receive new chair lifts on the stairs.

Buzz Aldrin is expected to have an overhaul of one of its staircases by this summer. Another possibility is the replacement of stairs at the George Inness Annex.

In January, Parette Somjen did an inspection of the Buzz Aldrin staircase and recommended that work be done on it. In November, the school district reported additional concerns about the same staircase to Parette Somjen. An inspection found additional structural problems that had not been noticed at the time of the previous inspection. “Treads were demolished to reveal concealed spaces and hidden conditions,” the report said. The staircase has been closed off and is expected to be overhauled by this summer. Likewise, at George Inness, a follow-up inspection in December found damage that had not been noticed during a prior inspection in January. Parette Somjen said they are waiting for the district’s instructions on what action to take.