Fight over temporary classroom trailers’ location taken to council members

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | MonroeNow | Aug 10, 2018

MONROE – Several residents took their fight with the location of temporary classroom trailers to the township council meeting on Monday night, hoping that officials would act in some manner.

“I know it might be a Board of Education issue, but this is so close to my heart,” said Paramdeep Singh. “Everybody is outraged at the lack of concern for children’s safety. This is just so concerning. This road is 35 MPH, cars are zooming through this road. [We] should have those trailers in a safer place.”

Last month, the Monroe Township School District began installing the temporary classroom trailers along the busy Perrineville Road.

The move resulted in furious objection from residents, with more than 2,000 people signing an online petition protesting the location and holding rallies between the street and the Monroe Township Middle School.

Community members are concerned that the students and staff assigned to those trailers are potentially in harm’s way because of a lack of security and safety measures should an accident occur.

Though the township council has no control over Board of Education operations, the governing body is aware of the community’s concerns.

“I assure you there is constant communication between the administration of both the Board of Education and the township administration,” said Council President Stephen Dalina during the meeting. “And at this point I’m sure it will be a topic of discussion.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the township business administrator, Alan Weinberg, said, “The Township is aware of the Board of Education’s July 30th letter regarding the school district’s new portable classrooms. We look forward to hearing the results of their review and discussions — and stand ready to help in any way we can.”

Though residents have objected to the location of the trailers, moving the temporary structures may not happen, district officials said. That is in part because the district wants students and staff to have access to bathroom facilities without leaving the temporary structures. The district has said that the infrastructure needed to make that possible exists in the location where the trailers were installed.

Additionally, aside from infrastructure, the acting superintendent, Robert Goodall, said last month that moving the trailers at this point with classes set to start in just a few weeks is likely not possible.

“At this point with all the site work that has been done … it would be a real challenge to move them by the first of September,” Goodall said in July. “I’ve always had faith in our district and facility’s department to provide the best environment for our kids. At this point I would ask the community to wait to see the final product. It’s still in the construction phase. I’ve taken their concerns to the architect to lesson those concerns. Let’s see what the finished product is at the end of the month.”

The Board of Education approved installing the temporary trailers at the middle school to help alleviate overcrowding in the coming year. Though, how long they will remain is undetermined because district officials are looking at options to hold a second referendum to build a new middle school after the first one in March failed. A new proposal could come as early as September.

Demanding change

The petition started by Rochelle Fennell has garnered more than 2,000 online signatures.

The petition states that Perrineville Road is a busy street that has had its share of accidents in recent years and having the Middle School classroom trailers that close to the street puts the students in danger.

For a new location, the petition suggests moving the trailers behind the Middle School, similar to what was done for the high school at one point when the additional classroom space was needed. If additional requirements are needed to place the trailers behind the school, the petition calls on the school board to make accommodations even if that includes temporary portable restroom trailers.

The petition also said that building a barrier is “unacceptable. If one has to consider placing a barriers for protection that obviously means the location is unsafe.”

In a letter to township residents, Goodall said that barriers are being considered.

“The safety and security of our students and staff remains our number one priority. To this end, discussions regarding the installation of protective barriers along the perimeter of the trailer footprint, among other items, are continuing,” Goodall wrote on July 30. “Once a final decision is arrived at in this regard, I will provide the parents in this District with additional information.”