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Princeton Unified News

As part of the facilities referendum that our community passed last year, the renovation of the John Witherspoon Academic Conference Center (ACC) is about to begin along with other improvements in our building. Beginning on March 1, we will start major construction to transform the ACC into new learning spaces that will be accessible to all JW students. This renovation will provide much-needed space for our growing student body and provide us with some state-of-the-art, flexible learning spaces that can be used for collaborative projects.

What will be the outcome of the various renovation projects?

We are renovating the Academic Conference Center to create four new flexible learning spaces. These learning spaces are all on the same level and will have access to an outdoor courtyard. It is anticipated that these rooms will be available for use starting in September 2020. We will also be renovating the Health Office Suite and building a new medical room, an exam room, three resting areas and a bathroom that will be easily accessible and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. We will be adding new, high-efficiency HVAC units (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) to 46 John Witherspoon classrooms, as well as air-conditioning for the cafeteria and the new ACC space. We will also improve ventilation to the main corridors and improve the acoustics in the cafeteria and in the common area between the library and the auditorium.  We will make some changes to the main entrance, including the addition of a security vestibule.

What is the timeline for the JW construction projects?

February 10

Piping work starts after school

March 1

Renovation of ACC begins

June 24

The start date for HVAC work

August 21

Construction completed

August 24-28

Final Cleaning

September 2, 3 & 8

Staff Development

September 9

First day of school


 Will classes or clubs be affected by construction?

We are making every effort to maintain a good environment in the classrooms once construction starts on March 1. The piping work will be done after school; after-school clubs that meet in classrooms may be relocated.

Where will the health and nurse’s office be located during construction?

The health and nurse’s office will be moved to the Life Skills room in the A-Wing. When it is completed, the new health suite will provide both improved facilities and more privacy for children who are ill or experiencing a health concern.

When will the air quality be tested?

As a baseline, air quality will be tested prior to construction activity. Testing will be done again after final cleaning and before occupying the renovated areas. Additional testing dates will be added during the March-June timeframe as necessary. The district will be meeting New Jersey requirements for testing air quality.

What safeguards will we have in place to ensure construction dust and sounds do not impact the rest of the building?

The doors and mechanical openings connecting the ACC area to the rest of the building will be sealed off prior to the start of construction. Additional efforts will be made to reduce sound transfer. There will be a separate construction entry to the ACC from the outside. In areas where air conditioning units are being installed, such as classrooms, dust and noise-producing activity will only happen in the summer. Cleanup will occur prior to areas being re-occupied. During demolition or when masonry is being cut, the contractor will use HEPA filters and maintain negative air pressure to prevent dust from migrating.

Are there plans to mitigate construction noise?

We anticipate some noise and inconvenience from construction but every effort has been undertaken to manage those as best as possible, and we will monitor and improve conditions as necessary.

Will there be a construction fence to ensure students and visitors are prevented from entering the construction site?

Yes. The areas that will be used by the contractor for parking, equipment, dumpsters, and machinery will be fenced off from other areas. There will be signage clearly placed around restricted access areas. 

Where will dumpsters for construction debris be located? What about construction vehicles?  Where will they be parked?

There will be dumpsters and storage containers located within the restricted area on the JW front lawn. The contractors will park on the street.  Space has been reserved in the JW back parking lot for trailers and storage containers.

What will be communicated to construction workers about interactions with students? Will construction personnel have their IDs screened? How will we ensure smoking does not take place on-site by construction personnel?

The contractors have been informed that they are not allowed to interact with students. All contractors will sign in every day with the Lobby Guard system and wear badges at all times. Smoking on school grounds is not allowed under the law. Infractions will be addressed with the proper authorities.

What construction work will happen in the summer? Will the school be ready to open in the fall?

In addition to the continuing renovation of the ACC and the nurses’ suite, we will be adding new, high-efficiency HVAC units to 46 John Witherspoon classrooms, as well as air-conditioning for the cafeteria and the new ACC space. The district has safeguards in our agreement with the contractor to ensure that this work is done in a timely and efficient manner. Included in the plan is a very thorough clean up after the work is completed. Facilities personnel will be meeting with teachers prior to construction to review the locations of the HVAC equipment and will provide them with boxes and packing tape for all books and items in the classroom to protect educational materials and to ensure a smooth, clean start next fall. 

We've scheduled this work in the summer because that's the only time the building is available for a project that involves so many classrooms. The window of time for the work is short. We have started early, and are doing everything possible to make sure the work is completed on time. 

Will the JW main office be open over the summer?

At the conclusion of the school year, the main office in its current location will not be accessible due to the installation of a new entrance/vestibule and the on-going improvements to the heating and air conditioning. With that in mind, tentative plans are in place to relocate the main office to the A-wing where the band, choir, orchestra, and drama classes are currently located. There will be families who need to access the nurse's office (also being relocated to A-wing) and also those who may need to see key school employees during the summer months. More information will be available soon about which entrances will be open. The entrances to the gym and pool will be open all summer.

Will teachers be able to access John Witherspoon in the summer? Where will the summer programs take place?

Teachers will not be able to get into the building in the summer. It will be an active construction site and the health and safety of our teachers and staff is of paramount importance. The summer programs usually held at John Witherspoon will be held at Princeton High School this summer. The only part of the building that will be accessible in the summer will be the swimming pool and the gym, the temporarily relocated front office and the temporary nurse’s office.

Do we anticipate finding any asbestos?

AHERA Consultants, Inc. will conduct a review prior to construction activity to ascertain if any hazardous or potentially hazardous materials are present. If found, abatement will occur in a way consistent with all applicable regulations and requirements. Asbestos testing by a licensed firm will be done in accordance with state guidelines in the event there is a need for any removal. Most of the asbestos in PPS buildings has been removed but it is still possible that there could be some asbestos found once construction begins. The district is taking every precaution.

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