By Steve Sears
When the 2018-19 school year for Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology ends, a flurry of activity will begin.
On Wednesday, January 30, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Schools of Technology signed a Project Labor Agreement with local construction trades unions to ensure union workers will be hired and work on a $30-million-dollar project to expand and modernize the facility. The project includes construction of a two-story addition onto the front of the school, renovations to current space to accommodate current and new curriculum, and creation of an outdoor courtyard. The slated project completion date is January 2021.
While the project is on-going, students will attend classes at Bloomfield Technical School, which was recently closed but will be briefly reopened during the renovation project.
“That building was a factory,” says DiVincenzo. “The county purchased it in 1976, so from 1976 until now it was one of our vocational schools. Our vocational school system here in Essex County has approximately 2,200 kids in all three of our buildings, and now that school (West Caldwell) houses approximately between 250 – 300.”
The Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology project follows on the heels of the building of the new Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology in Newark, which took roughly 2 ½ years and $165 million to build. Both projects are funded by the State of New Jersey.
DiVincenzo is proud to mention that, in the past seven years, Essex County vocational schools have received four National Blue-Ribbon Awards, and he lauds the new facilities. “The Payne School is probably the best school in the state of New Jersey when it comes to vocational training; it’s 330 square feet of beautiful building. The West Caldwell campus – that whole area, once this is done and completed – it’s going to be beautiful. It will look great, I think the community is going to love it, we’re going to make sure it’s not only a great school, but we’re also going to have the community participate in the school. So, we’re going to make this an all-around facility.”
Included among the improvements are a new Career & Technical Education Construction Lab, a new Greenhouse and renovated space for the Agricultural Science CTE Lab, an outdoor courtyard that will be used by the Agricultural Science program, a new Media Center, which will be the first facility of its kind in at the West Caldwell Campus, three Life Skills classrooms, two Community Living rooms and one Retail Classroom for special services students, a renovated cosmetology facility with an adjoining classroom for academic instruction, a renovated cafeteria seating for 135 students and new kitchen facilities, and renovations to the culinary and baking CTE Labs. There will also be updated accommodations for school administrative offices, eight new classrooms in the new addition for math and four language arts classes, a new weight room for physical education class and athletics, a new aerobics/dance room for physical education and the performing arts program, an enhanced Music Production facility and enhanced security measures to monitor the interior and exterior of the facility.
The highest percentage of students who attend the school come from Newark, but attendees come from all over Essex County.
“Our school,” says DiVincenzo, “is open to everyone.”
The Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology is located at 620 Passaic Avenue in West Caldwell. Visit www.essextech.org/west-caldwell-tech for more information.