$20,000 Sustainable Jersey grant funded by PSEG helped upgrade Poseidon Academy at foot of the Toms River 

March 19, 2018-- Toms River Regional Schools worked with the township to write and receive a competitive Sustainable Jersey grant funded by PSEG worth $20,000, money which has been used to transform the aging Poseidon Academy marine science building in downtown Toms River into a flexible workspace promoting environmental research and activism for students and the community. The building was rededicated as the School of Environmental Sustainability Poseidon Lab at a public ceremony March 26.

The remodeled space will support the new School of Environmental Sustainability (SES), part of a STEAM Career Academy which debuted in September 2017 at Toms River High School East. Expanded courses and opportunities will continue to be led by teacher and Poseidon director Jon Hoffman. Students from across the district will benefit from SES student outreach as well as local experts recruited as mentors, sponsors, interviewers, speakers, and guest teachers.

In addition to extensive repairs and remodeling made by the district, staff, students, local partners and volunteers will be involved in planning and running community programs in the space, including public lectures, workshops, and presentations.

The small concrete building, a former bus depot, sits at the foot of the Toms River, where waters flow over 40 miles into Barnegat Bay and, ultimately, the Atlantic. Before the renovation, the classroom fit 15 students, several fish tanks, scuba gear, and some water testing equipment. In its new configuration, it will hold up to 25 people with new technology and utilities.

The project builds on the town’s continuing recovery from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. A high water mark is painted on the side of the building to show how the lab was immersed in over two feet of water five years ago, causing extensive damage. Over the past couple of years, the town has made investments into many areas of the waterfront, including major construction to the bulkhead, a pedestrian bridge, and a refurbished dock and small boat launch. The beautified grounds of Huddy Park are a stone’s skip across the water from the lab. The lab will act as an anchor for new plans being devised by the town to address the waterfront area west of Main Street. View a photo gallery below.

BEFORE

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DURING

Toms River Regional Schools' facilities team undertook an in-depth structural and mechanical renovation of the Poseidon Lab.

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AFTER; REDEDICATION

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Assistant Superintendent of Operations Dr. Marc Natanagara served as lead writer for the grant that earned the Poseidon remodel, and during the rededication he explained how the district worked closely with the township and TRUST to design the project.

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This framed acknowledgement of the remodel will be displayed in teacher Jon Hoffman's Poseidon Lab moving forward.

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Marine-themed treats were available during the rededication, including this sandcastle dessert designed and baked by Toms River Township Green member Sharon Quilter-Colucci.

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Superintendent David Healy said that this newly remodeled space represents another piece of the puzzle in the big picture of the district's long-term vision. He added, "I’d like to thank PSE&G and Sustainable Jersey for the work they are doing and for the generous grant that kicked off the reimagining of this unique space on the banks of the Toms River."

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Town Planner Erika Stahl, who leads Toms River Township's Green Team and who helped kickstart the grant process, talked about how the renovation of the downtown lab lab fits perfectly into the town's long-term plans and sustainable initiatives.

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Director of Curriculum 6-12 Norma DeNoia touched on the history of the lab, the district's first school-within-a-school. She said, "The use of this particular space as an ideal location for study of the estuaries and rivers leading to the nearby ocean was the vision of the late, great educator Bob Raimann."

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Supervisor of Educational Technology Tiffany Lucey said, "The Poseidon Lab is a place where learning will not be bound within the walls of this space, but where data can be collected out in the field."

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Educational Facilities Manager Mark Wagner-- flanked by district engineer Dharm Bhatt-- thanked his team for their fine structural and mechanical work, and talked about the classroom environment influences the learning experience.

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Toms River School Board President Russell Corby expressed pride in how the Poseidon project brought all of Toms River together for a singular, student-driven purpose.

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Board member Christopher Raimann talked about how much the rededication of the Poseidon Lab would have meant to his father, Bob, who was a hugely influential figure in Toms River education, especially when it came to the sciences.

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Sustainable Jersey's Development Director Joe Grillo is all smiles with Assistant Superintendent Marc Natanagara as he congratulates the district on the grant-funded renovation. Grillo said Sustainable Jersey only distributes a small handful of $20k grants, and that the district and township should be proud to have earned one.

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