As they entered the school's front door on the first day, students, teachers, and parents were surrounded in the foyer by a panoramic hand-painted mural featuring scenes of the Navesink River and Shadow Lake, including a double-decker NJ Transit train traveling along the water. Parent volunteers Tricia Simon and Wendy Curtis created the artwork.
“Our principal, Mrs. Pickus, mentioned that she had a vision to transform the lobby into something colorful for the children and staff,” explains Simon. “Since our school is situated in a wooded area, close to the Navesink River, we wanted to capture the natural beauty that surrounds River Plaza and bring it indoors for all to enjoy.” Incorporating an existing brick wall into the mural, the illusion is given of a courtyard near the riverbank.
Another complete transformation at River Plaza is the library. In September 2011, a $13,900 grant was awarded to the River Plaza PFA by the Edward and Stella Van Houten Memorial Fund. The library space, in the original section of the school, built in 1922, had deteriorated over the years, and the majority of books were outdated. The school's Library Committee, comprised of parent volunteers Serena Adams, Bridget Brambilla, and Stacie Carter, spent the past year “bringing the library back to life.”
The grant money was used to purchase hundreds of books and to refurbish the space. The walls and bookshelves received fresh coats of paint, a custom circulation desk was installed, and a soft seating reading area was created. Additional books were donated by River Plaza families and teachers.
Mrs. Simon's colorful artwork can be found throughout the room in collages, paintings, and mobiles. River Plaza parent volunteer Mark Stocker donated his carpentry talents to design and build a custom, solid-oak media cabinet and face-out display shelves for books. Many volunteers lent their time to revive the library which is now a bright, cheerful, and inspirational space. “It's cool, relaxing, and fun,” stated fourth-grader Devon Perrotta. Second-grader Stella Urbanowicz added that "the books are more organized than they used to be and it is very easy to find things. My friends and I love the Rainbow Magic Fairy books and there is a whole basket full of them on the shelf."
The most significant change at River Plaza is the arrival of new Principal Kim Pickus in July. Mrs. Pickus came to River Plaza from the Manalapan-Englishtown school district with several years of experience as a principal, curriculum supervisor, and teacher of various grades within K-12. “Mrs. Pickus brings a wealth of leadership and great knowledge to our school,” said PFA President Wendy Curtis.
"The level of volunteerism on the part of River Plaza families coupled with the dedication of our staff have been inspiring to me over the past three months,” said Mrs. Pickus. “The River Plaza community truly has the best interest of students in mind as it works to make our school an inviting and engaging center of 21st century learning."