Bellmawr Schools to Open September 8

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Bellmawr Schools will open on Tuesday, September 8 and that includes Pre-K, said School Superintendent, Annette Castiglione, at last week’s Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

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Bellmawr’s New Early Childhood Center

Because of an environmental issue that developed during excavation, construction of the Early Childhood Center was halted until the property was remediated, she said.

During the June BOE meeting, the district’s architect, Bob Garrison, and environmental consultant Tom Pruno of Environmental Design had spoken to the BOE about “historic fill” that had been unearthed during the early phases of the construction work.

When the historic fill was dug up, Garrison explained that NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requirements called for the district to “stop, remove, and then proceed.”

Pruno qualified “historic fill” to mean fully intact (dinner) plates, bottles and utensils that contained lead, which leached into the soil as a result of glazing practices common in the 1940s.

The fill was considered to be “low impact,” Pruno said, and he roughly estimated the cost of having the soil removed at approximately $30 a ton, as opposed to contaminated fill, which would cost about $500 a ton to haul away.

Pruno was unable to attend last week’s meeting to give an update to the BOE. However, he was contacted for an update. *Article updated to provide link for the new information. Click here that update.

The superintendent was asked about a projected total cost for the remediation work. She responded by confirming that the district is solely responsible for the remediation, but since the project is not yet finished, she cannot give a dollar figure at this point.

As for when the building will be ready for the students, Castiglione said she believes that date will be early November.

In the meantime, accommodations have been made to double up rooms within Bellmawr Park to house all of the incoming Pre-K students.

In other matters, the BOE approved all business on its agenda.

Approved motions included the district’s goals for the 2015-16 school year.

In part, those goals call for Go Math to be implemented in fifth grade and to use the diagnostic piece of the sixth-eighth grade math program.

For grades one through six, Benchmark Reading will be implemented and for grades seven and eight, Collection Literacy will be implemented.

The 1:1 laptop initiative will be expanded.

Academically, a summer regression program will be created for the lowest 20% of the population. Measures are being taken to ensure that 80% of fourth grade students are on grade level.

The district is aiming for a five percent growth on those students assigned to Read 180 in fifth and sixth grades.

Additionally, the district is striving to successfully implement the full day early childhood program for three and four year olds.

A master teacher will be utilized to develop a comprehensive assessment system for the early childhood learning environment.

In accordance with the terms of the superintendent’s contract that was approved last year in August, 2014, the BOE voted on a merit bonus for Castiglione in the amount of $21,621.

The amount of the bonus was based on quantitative and qualitative goals that were approved as having been met during the BOE’s June meeting.

Castiglione made the following comment concerning goals for this school year: “I will not be submitting merit goals so there will not be a monetary burden for the district. However, going forward, those are goals for the district nonetheless.”

Other board approvals included an agreement with Sean Clancy for the Bell Oaks Chorale consultant/director services for the 2015-16 school at a fee of $4,000.00 and an approval to hire Natalie Fox Entz as the Learning Disability Teaching Consultant (LDTC) at a salary of $59,020.00.

Entz replaces Roseanne Yezzo, will be the Supervisor of Student Services, a newly created position in the district.

In other matters, the superintendent informed the BOE that attempts are being made to contact a former employee to return what is believed to be district property in the form of classroom materials.

Castiglione said she contacted the authorities and told the BOE: “This doesn’t rise to the level of criminal, because that carries a monetary amount.”

She explained that another letter was written to the person in an effort to have the materials returned by August 31 so charges would not have to be filed.

*This article originally appeared in the September 3, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.

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