STANHOPE-A major construction project at the Valley Road School got off the ground on Sunday, May 23, as Stanhope officials and residents gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies. The school is set to undergo major renovations as well as an addition. The plan is to build additional classrooms and facilities, a gymnasium, and a cafeteria with a kitchen equipped to serve hot lunches. "We are all, including the parents, very pleased that the work has started," said interim Superintendent William Caldwell. "We're a little anxious for it to all be completed, but we know it will take time, and the outcome will be worth the wait." The construction plans are expected to take place in three phases. The first phase, a renovation of existing classrooms and what is now the library, is expected to be done in early September. All classrooms are getting a new communication system and are having fire sprinklers installed, Caldwell said. "Some of the work to be done is extensive and some isn't as extensive, but still necessary," he said. In addition, the school's driveway and parking lot will be made larger with a new configuration to enhance traffic flow. Since courtesy busing will be eliminated starting next school year, it is expected that morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up of students will increase. The current library will be renovated and turned into the nurses' office suite, as well as the Child Study Team department. By January 2005, if everything goes as scheduled, Caldwell expects to have completed the second phase of the project, in which the front entrance way of the school will be expanded outward to make room for a new media center and administrative offices. The final leg of the project, with a completion date set for September 2005, is designated for the north end of the building. Five additional classrooms will be built, including two for kindergarten classes, one for art, one for music, and one for a food and consumer education class. New to the south end of the school, a standard size gymnasium will be built, which will include a full-sized basketball court with bleachers seating roughly 200. In addition to the gymnasium, new locker rooms are also in the plans. Also scheduled in the new construction is a kitchen equipped to make hot meals under the regulations and guidelines of the Federal Type A lunch program. Currently, students wishing to buy lunch receive a bagged lunch brought over from Lenape Valley High School. Caldwell expects a substantial increase in the number of those wishing to buy lunch when the kitchen is operational. During the annual spring concert, Valley Road School Principal Nick Brown expressed excitement to move ahead with the plans and thanked the parents for their cooperation. "I would like to ask everyone to be patient, ask questions, and read the weekly updates I plan to send home," he said. "Everyone needs to stay tuned because construction can be confusing at times, especially regarding traffic on the school grounds." Brown encouraged parents to talk to their children about the noise and the distraction that construction will create at times and most importantly about construction site safety, mainly staying away from equipment and roped off areas.