Photo: M. Sohor, H. Shah, O. Henry, Mascot, D. Cittadino

Old Bridge Township, NJ – On Monday, September 14th and Tuesday, September 15th, 2021, Old Bridge Township welcomed the students and staff of Walter M. Schirra Elementary School to hold their daily classes and activities at the municipal complex. Unfortunately, following Tropical Storm Ida, Schirra had an air quality safety situation and could not let the students and staff enter at that time.

Superintendent of Schools, David Cittadino, reached out to Mayor Owen Henry and Business Administrator, Himanshu Shah last Wednesday asking if the township would support an investigation into any available space for temporary use at the municipal complex. The Mayor and Mr. Shah responded positively to the request and instructed Parks and Recreation Director, Matt Mercurio, to contact Mr. Cittadino and start planning. On Thursday, September 9th, the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, along with Mr. Shah, Mayor Henry, Matt Mercurio, and newly appointed Library Director, Alan Kornblau visited three potential sites around the complex. The Superintendent felt that George Bush Silver Linings Center, the Arthur M. Haney Old Bridge Public Library children’s section, and the Richard Allen Cooper Civic Center were all suitable to create the best classroom environment for the students.

On Friday, the plans were finalized and put into motion. Our municipal staff and the Board of Education staff worked diligently on Saturday and Sunday to create ideal classroom settings. Optimum’s Government Affairs liaison, Marilyn Davis was kind enough to have additional WiFi services installed over the weekend at no additional cost to the township. The Mayor and Mr. Shah spoke with Council President Mary Sohor and Library Board President Barbara Cannon who both wholeheartedly supported the Board of Education’s decision to utilize the township’s facilities.

We would also like to acknowledge Sergeant Tom Montagna and Acting Chief Joe Mandola for ensuring the appropriate security and safety measures were in place. Also, a special thanks goes out to Matt Mercurio, Director of Parks and Recreation, and Kasey Lenning, Director of Public Works, for working the entire weekend to set up the classrooms.

The students arrived Monday and Tuesday morning to the welcoming staff of Old Bridge Township and the Board of Education, along with Mayor Owen Henry, Himanshu Shah, Council President Mary Sohor, and Ward 4 Councilman, Mark Razzoli. To ensure safe arrivals and departures, employees parked elsewhere to keep the library and main parking lots free for the parents, staff, and students.

“I want to thank the student body, staff, the teachers, and the principal at Schirra”, stated Mayor Owen Henry.  He continued to say, “I can’t imagine the stress level they were at when they were told they had to relocate. I also must commend the parents for having to bring their children at a very young age to a brand-new campus. Their children are some of the best-behaved children I’ve ever seen, and I also received many compliments from other people. This entire situation was a group effort and I’m glad we had the opportunity to do this for Schirra.”

Thanks to the efforts of all involved, everything went smoothly and we were more than happy to have the students and staff for as long as needed. We were prepared to host Schirra Elementary for one week, but fortunately, the school was cleared to re-open on Wednesday, September 15th, 2021.                                                        



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