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Modular Buildings at Middle School Get Fast-Tracked Hearing

Morris Township Planning Board offered comments on the plan Monday and said they would stay tuned for any concerns from residents who have not yet had a chance to review the project.

Two connected modular office buildings will be installed facing the side of Frelinghuysen Middle School, across a parking lot from the main building with sports fields behind them, to free up space for five classrooms in the main building amid increasing enrollment, school officials said Monday.

Child Study Team offices and offices for The Community School would be moved to the modular buildings and the existing office space would be converted to classrooms. Plans to add classrooms to the West Hanover Avenue facility were announced last month, and the project had a fast-tracked courtesy review hearing before the Morris Township Planning Board on Monday night to get the board's comments on the plans.

School District Business Administrator Christine Kelly said the district sought to have the hearing process sped up so it can go out to bid on the project in time to have the additional classroom space available by the start of next school year. Letters about the meeting were hand-delivered to residents around the school Friday morning, she said, which meant residents had less notice than ususal to review the plans and attend the meeting.

Planning board members said they had some concerns that residents adjactent to the property did not have enough time to review the plans or attend the meeting, but said the location of the buildings and the presence of trees between the nearest houses led them to believe there would not be major concerns.

If township officials become aware there are residents who have questions or concerns that were not able to be raised for Monday's courtesy review, the board could try to have school district officials discuss the project at another meeting.

The Wayne firm of Di Cara-Rubino Architects provided the design work for the new classrooms and members of the firm were on hand Monday to talk about the project, as was Kelly and Frelinghuysen Principal Mark Manning.

The project also includes the installation of a generator that could heat the building in the event of long-term power outages, such as those the middle school endured after Superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene. While the generator could heat the main building, buying a generator to provide full power to the building is cost prohibitive, Kelly said.

The cost of the project won't be known until a construction company is designated for the project, but district officials say the project will be paid for with existing funds in the district's capital reserve. Using modular buildings detached from the main school building is meant to keep costs low, Kelly said.

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