State’s Own Estimate Shows Need for Major Upgrades in Most Abbott Districts

John Mooney | November 19, 2019 | Education
Department of Education lists dozens of construction or renovation projects as priorities, even as inadequate infrastructure has been challenged in court

The latest court challenge under the Abbott v. Burke school-equity rulings demands that the state meet its obligation to build and maintain adequate school buildings in some of the toughest cities in New Jersey.

Exhibit A in that challenge may be the state’s own reckoning of the needs for new or renewed school infrastructure in those cities.

As part of its challenge to the state Supreme Court to revisit New Jersey’s obligations under Abbott, the Education Law Center last week cited the state’s own reports over the last decade — and as recently as this year — listing the needs in virtually all 31 urban districts .

The condition of school buildings is a central component of the decades-old Abbott remedies, which overall required billions in additional dollars to be spent in the state’s neediest urban districts.

According to the latest court-mandated assessment of school building needs from the state Department of Education, the Murphy administration in January cited the need for dozens of projects to remedy conditions — and space — in buildings that are below the standards for providing an adequate education.

That state assessment is largely based on square footage and programmatic requirements such as science labs, and not so much the age of the buildings themselves. But it also notes that several cities, including Newark and Camden, have multiple buildings that are at least a century old.

The DOE’s January assessment is not even a final list, as the report calls for further review and the possibility of making up the space elsewhere in other schools. A final strategic plan from the state, including cost estimates that are likely to run in the billions of dollars, is one of the key demands of the ELC lawsuit.

According to the state report, Jersey City needs three new early childhood centers, Elizabeth two new elementary schools, and Union City another two. Only two districts out of the 31 — Gloucester and Neptune — did not have outstanding needs, according to the state.

The following is the list of priority projects in all 31 districts, as documented by the January report:

Asbury Park:

  • Barack Obama Elementary (renovation)
  • Asbury Park High School (renovation)
  • Asbury park Middle School (renovation)

Bridgeton

  • Broad Street (renovation/addition)
  • Bridgeton High School (renovation/addition)
  • West Avenue School (renovation/addition)

Burlington

  • Captain James Lawrence Elementary School (renovation)
  • Samuel Smith Elementary School (renovation)

Camden

  • The replacement or renovation of its unspecified pre-1925 schools

City of Orange

  • Orange Preparatory Academy (renovation/addition)
  • Heywood Avenue School or other pre-1930 building (renovation/addition)
  • Forest Street School or other pre-1930 building (renovation/addition)

East Orange

  • Whitney Houston Academy
  • Ecole T. Louverture Academy
  • Gordon Parks Academy

Elizabeth

  • PreK-8 school (new)
  • PreK-8 school (new)
  • Visual and Performing Arts or Vocational High School (new)

Garfield

  • Roosevelt School #7 (new on new site)
  • Roosevelt ECC (renovation/conversion)
  • Garfield High School (renovation/addition)

Gloucester City

  • No major educational projects remaining

Harrison

  • Lincoln School (renovation)
  • Hamilton School (renovation)

Hoboken

  • Joseph Brandt School (renovation)
  • Jr/Sr. High School (renovation)

Irvington

  • Grove Street School (renovation/addition)
  • Chancellor Avenue School (renovation/addition)
  • Berkeley Terrace School (renovation/addition)

Jersey City

  • Early childhood center (new)
  • Early childhood center (new)
  • Early childhood center (new)

Keansburg

  • Bolger Middle School (renovation)

Long Branch

  • Lenna Conroy ECC (addition)
  • Audrey Clark Elementary School (renovation)

Millville

  • Memorial School (renovation)
  • Rieck Avenue School (renovation)
  • Bacon School (renovation)

Neptune

  • No major educational projects remaining

New Brunswick

  • New Brunswick Middle (renovation/addition)
  • Livingston School (renovation/addition)
  • Woodrow Wilson (renovation/addition)

Newark

  • The renovation or replacement of its unspecified pre-1900 buildings

Passaic City

  • Passaic High School
  • Thomas Jefferson School (renovation/addition)

Paterson

  • HARP High School or other HS (new)
  • Kilpatrick School or any other school that eliminates leased space (new)
  • School 3 or any other pre-1910 building (new)

Pemberton

  • Harker-Wylie Elementary School (renovation/addition)
  • Emmons Elementary School (renovation/addition)
  • Stackhouse School (renovation/addition)

Perth Amboy

  • Early childhood center (new)
  • Ceres School (renovation/addition)
  • Shull School (renovation/addition)

Phillipsburg

  • Phillipsburg Middle School (renovation)

Plainfield

  • Evergreen Elementary School (new)
  • Barlow Elementary School (renovation/addition)
  • Stillman Elementary School (renovation/addition)

Pleasantville

  • North Main Elementary School (new)
  • Washington Avenue School (renovation/addition)
  • South Main Elementary School (renovation/addition)

Salem

  • Salem Middle School (renovation/addition)
  • Salem City High School (renovation)
  • John Fenwick Elementary School (renovation)

Trenton

  • Wilson Elementary School (new)
  • Robbins Elementary School (renovation/addition)
  • Washington Elementary School (renovation/addition)

Union City

  • Elementary School (new)
  • Elementary School (new)

Vineland

  • Anthony Rossi School (renovation/addition)
  • Landis Middle School (renovation/addition)
  • Johnstone School (renovation)

West New York

  • Elementary School (new)
  • Memorial High School (renovation)