Traffic Safety a Priority for Washington Ave. School
Principal Mary Quigley worked with St. Patrick School and Chatham Borough Police to improve conditions near the school.
Traffic and pedestrian safety at and around Washington Avenue School (WAS) is a big job. So over the summer, Principal Mary Quigley met with representatives from St. Patrick School, the School District of the Chathams' home office, Chatham Borough and the Chatham Borough Police Department to discuss ways to make the area safer for students and motorists.
"[Traffic Officer] Robert Sweetin finally got us the sign for Watchung Avenue saying the speed limit is 20 miles-per-hour there now," Quigley said. "It's not even 25."
Motorists exiting St. Patrick School onto Oliver Street will soon see a sign directing them to turn left only during school drop-off and pick-up times, according to Sweetin. This should redirect that school's traffic away from the entrance to WAS.
At Chatham Street and Washington Avenue, police will paint the intersection to encourage motorists not to "block the box," and police enforcement of traffic laws near the school will become more strict as school starts.
"That area has become more crucial," Quigley said.
Traffic Safety Officer Robert Sweetin said, "What we're attempting to do is alter how the traffic flows."
Police and DeNave are also working towards possibly putting in a driveway along Watchung Avenue that would allow buses to drop students off at the upper parking lot, which would keep small children off of Washington Avenue and away from that traffic. The project requires coordination with the county, since Watchung Avenue is a county road.
Throughout the 2011-12 school year and over the summer, Quigley said three former WAS students who came back.
"They're former graduates of my school and they're going to be seniors at the high school this year," she said. "They're Boy Scouts who chose to do their Eagle Scout projects making improvements to the school.
Danny Villars built benches that encircle a tree near the school playground and mulched the area nearby. In the middle of the summer's July heat wave, he also painted the US map, foursquare blocks and kickball outlines on the playground, which Quigley said were sorely in need of a face-lift.
Jake Burns created a human sundial project in an area of 22-X-15 ft. behind the school. He also created a video on the project, which may be found in the Photos & Videos section of this article.
Robert Weber improved the outdoor area near the school's second-grade wing. "When they added the new addition, they did not do the landscaping well," Quigley said. After hard work over the summer, the area's appearance has drastically improved.
Weber "built the two benches," Quigley said, "he mulched the area and he put in bushes all the way from the benches to the second grade door."
Weber purchased plants for the landscaping from Coviello Bros. in Madison at a discount. Over the summer he came by to water the plants and made sure they survived the heat. Weber dedicated the area to retired WAS librarian Dr. Joel Kuhn and his wife Dottie, who served as the district's Fine Arts supervisor.
"That's my big news in my letter this year, that these three graduates came back to do that for us," Quigley said.
The Parent Portal, Staff and Enrollment
As with other elementary schools in the district, Quigley expects this will be the last year parents will receive her welcome letter via snail mail.
"This year the district is doing something new," she said. "They're opening up the Parent Portal in all the schools, which is great for the parents. Next year I imagine we'll be able to send out placements through that system."
In the meantime, the 444 students currently enrolled at WAS for the 2012-13 school year received their placements by mail. As of Aug. 15, the school had 18 students enrolled in its preschool classes, 101 students enrolled in kindergarten, 114 students in first grade, 108 students in second grade and 103 students in third grade.
So far this year, Quigley said, "we have 27 new first graders, three new second graders and three third graders."
WAS will also welcome three new teachers to the building, including one teacher who worked as a student teacher. Now Catherine Gomber will teach full-time as a maternity replacement for Sarah Gutierrez. Caitlin Cuffe and Justin Levinski also join the WAS staff this year.
Back to School
Teachers return to school for professional development on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Students return to school on Thursday, Sept. 6.
Kindergarten assessments also begin Sept. 6, and the first day of kindergarten is Wednesday, Sept. 12.
The New Family Picnic will be at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14.
Back to School Night is at 6:45 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24. Chatham Borough Police Chief Philip J. Crosson and Sweetin will be there to discuss traffic safety with parents.