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School Make-Up Days, Sandy Recovery Discussions This Week

Both the Township Committee and BOE are still looking at how to deal with storm's impact.

It may have been almost a month since Super Storm Sandy blew into this area, but the topic remains on the front burner for township and school officials alike this week.

The Bernards Township Board of Education is due to meet at 7 p.m. on Monday at the William Annin Middle School.

Two weeks ago, the board met and discussed how to best reschedule days lost when students were unable to attend school in a town where many homes — and school buildings — remained without power for up to two weeks following the storm.

So far, the favored proposal on the table is to take two days apiece from the scheduled weeklong vacations in February and in April. The Martin Luther King federal holiday, a recent addition to the school calendar, is being eyed for a return as a regular school day.

Although students lost 10 full days, schools were due to be closed for two of those days anyway for the annual NJEA teachers' convention — although the convention was later canceled, and school officials had been hoping that students might return to school by that time.

The school calendar's built-in three days for inclement weather also were absorbed by Sandy. With the winter still ahead, school officials also are considering where any snow days would be made up in this year's school calendar.

The initial proposal was simply to eliminate the entire spring vacation, but some board members — and parents — said they were concerned that students and staff would then be attending schools for months with no break.

Some parents also said they had made vacation plans for spring. Part of the rationale for taking two days off each of the week vacations is that students who are gone either in February or April then would miss only two days of school instead of a whole week, according to the discussion at the last school board meeting.

Meanwhile, the following night, Tuesday, the Bernards Township Committee is due to hear a report from Township Administrator Bruce McCarthur regarding the township preparations for, challenges, shortcomings and successes in communications during and after the storm — and how the township is handling the aftermath.

Township officials already have said publicly that the township will not pick up curbside debris encourages residents to bring or accompany professional tree companies in bringing their storm debris to the municipal recycling facility on Pill Hill Road.

Residents were asked in a letter on the township website to refrain from placing storm debris in the public right of way, sidewalk or roadway. "This includes all debris regardless of its origination (private property, right of way, public property)," the letter says.

Meanwhile, the township has expanded the use of the Pill Hill Recycling Facility to include weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until November 30. That will be in addition to regular hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sunday.  Weekday use is limited to vegetative refuse only, and not bulky waste, the letter said.

"We recognize that some of the vegetative debris is too large and may require professional tree companies to transport. We have therefore instructed staff to allow access to commercial tree vehicles given that the resident either accompanies the contractor with identification or the contractor present a copy of your invoice with your identification clearly shown on the copy," the letter said.

Mayor Mary Pavlini has also said that she expects the Township Committee at this week's meeting — the first since Sandy struck on Oct. 29 — "We will discuss how we want to proceed and move forward to deal with JCP&L."

The mayor said officials had received questions about how to file an opinion on JCP&L performance.

"People need to voice their opinion," the mayor said. "People were frustrated and they have very strong feelings."

Legislators representing the area also held a forum a week ago at the Bernards Township Library and talked about how residents who suffered from fallen trees and other impacts of the storm could best seek financial assistance from their insurance company, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies.

McArthur also is supposed to update township officials Tuesday night on how FEMA might assist the municipality.

Islamic Society of Basking Ridge returns before the Planning Board at special meeting.

Sandy also disrupted the schedules of several other boards and groups, including the township Planning Board.

The proposal for a 4,200-square-foot mosque in Liberty Corner village is back on the agenda of a special meeting set for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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