August 15, 2011 at 5:45 PM
PATERSON, NJ – Garrett Morgan Academy will be moving into International High School’s building in the upcoming academic year as part of Paterson Public School’s efforts to cut expenses.
But HARP and STARS academies will remain at their Paterson Mall Shopping Center site, where there have been chronic problems with leaky roofs, because city education officials were unable to find new locations for those schools. Last year, on rainy days, buckets often were deployed in classrooms and hallways to catch the dripping water.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been stymied in our attempts to seek a more substantial facility for those academies,’’ Paterson Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges said of HARP and STARS.
The Board of Education on Wednesday is scheduled to vote on about $4.2 million worth of leases for schools, parking, offices and recreation space for the 2011-12 academic year. Overall, the district will be saving about $700,000 on leases compared to last year. The savings mainly come from shifting Garrett Morgan to International high and the Education Academy to Kennedy High.
Last year, the district paid $408,732 to Pella Realty to rent space at 137 Ellison Street, where the Education academy was located. That lease has ended and the academy will become one of four housed at the reorganized Kennedy High.
Meanwhile, as part of the transition for Garrett Morgan Academy, the district will pay New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) $50,800 for July through October for space at the Spruce Street location. Last year, the district paid NJCDC $152,700 in rent and $115,200 for utilities and other expenses. It was not clear whether city education administrators planned to shift Garrett Morgan into the International high building before the start of the school year, of if they would do it in October when the lease with NJCDC ends.
The district’s largest lease is for $1.2 million with RD Management for its administrative offices at 90 Delaware Avenue. That price is not changing this year. The district also pays property taxes on the Delaware Avenue offices, which will rise by $50,000 to $350,000, according to Board of Education documents.
Hodges, who heads the board’s facilities committee, said the district has several other schools it would like to rebuild or replace, including the old Boris Kroll site on State Street that houses the Sports Business and Public Safety academies. Hodges said the district would like to do major renovations on the space it currently rents there as well as build an addition at the site so it could accommodate another one or possibly two academies. But the district has not been able to get the state’s approval on those plans, he said.
Moreover, Hodges pointed out, the district had hoped to replace School No. 3 on Main Street, which is more than 100 years old, and rebuild the Don Bosco Tech facility on Union Avenue. But those projects were passed over last winter when the New Jersey Schools Development named a statewide list of priority school construction projects.
For the coming year, officials said, finding new space for the HARP and STARS academies will be a priority.
“Part of the problem,’’ Hodges said, “is we can’t act expeditiously because we have to wait for the state to approve the spending. We can’t just act when an opportunity comes up.’’
The district has been hoping to find space for HARP at the empty Paterson Catholic site or somewhere among the offices around St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. “We must find them new space,’’ said Schools Commissioner Pedro Rodriguez. “HARP is one of our top academies and we have to make these kids have the proper facilities.’’
The lease requires the landlord, the Paterson Mall Shopping Center, to take care of maintenance problems like the roof, according to school officials. But there have been disputes about exactly what work was needed to fix the problem.
In addition to the leaky roof that affects classrooms and hallways, Rodriguez said a major problem at the old mall is the awnings that are supposed to provide shelter when students and staff move between different parts of the building. Rodriguez said rain that comes through the awning presents a hazard.
“We’ve been lucky that nothing has really happened there,’’ he said. “It’s a big exposure.’’