New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that 10 schools in the state will receive a total of $584 million through the Schools Development Authority (SDA) to rebuild and renovate existing space. In addition to the allocated money, $100 million has been designated for emergency school improvements.
School districts that will receive funding include: Bridgeton, Elizabeth, Long Branch, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Newark, Paterson and West New York. Construction is expected to begin this year for a new magnet high school in the Elizabeth School District and an elementary school in the New Brunswick School District.
Christie announced that all construction will follow a standardized design process (creating one design for all new construction projects), thus greatly reducing costs for architects and project engineers. This process is estimated to save about $4 million per project. By starting with only two projects, Christie believes the state will find more ways to save through the initial process.
Richard Kaplan, superintendent of the New Brunswick School District is thrilled with the news. According to Kaplan, the district had the “only school in the state that they (state officials) tore down and didn’t rebuild.” He continued to say that since 2006, the children had been attending classes in a warehouse with no playground. The new school building will hold 675 students, grades 1-5, and will be built on a vacant lot where the former building once stood.
Just after Christie’s emergency construction announcement, a project for a new roof at the Dr. William H. Horton Elementary School was green-lighted. The school, which houses students from kindergarten to eighth grade, received $732,000 for repairs.
The SDA determines emergency repairs based on health and safety concerns.
Districts That Did Not Receive Funding Are Looking for Answers
The SDA is comprised of 31 school districts, and those districts not included in Christie’s list want answers as to why.
Originally, under former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, 51 projects were approved. Christie established new criteria to identify the need for construction which included: total cost, cost per pupil and the efficiency of the project. In the future, the entire list of eligible projects will be reviewed each year, and funding will be evaluated. There will be no set number of projects to complete each year – it will be strictly need-based.
Mark Miller, superintendent of the Warren County School District, which did not make this years list, says, “Half the students take classes in 31 trailers scattered behind the current school’s structure…there is no question in my mind…that these students deserve new schools, I have no idea why we were not on this list.”