CAMDEN, NJ—The Camden City School District is looking to the state for over $150 million for school repairs in the coming years after the completion of a six-month engineering audit.

Acting Camden City School District Superintendent Katrina McCombs provided the update on the school district’s facilities assessment at the district’s school board meeting on Tuesday night.

“Since taking over as your acting state superintendent, I have committed myself to just understanding what it would exactly take to give our students the high quality facilities they deserve,” McCombs said. “Our facility concerns are more significant than we estimated originally, and extend across nearly all of our buildings.”

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According to McCombs, the district spends an average of $2 million to $5 million out of its general operating budget per year on emergency repairs to its school buildings, most of which were built prior to World War II.

“We do not have the luxury of continuing to divert millions of dollars from the classroom for emergency facility repairs, nor do we have enough to invest in maintaining buildings for the long term,” McCombs said.

In order to make the repairs needed, the school district has asked the state department of education to support a $30 million bond to make HVAC replacements, boiler replacements and critical structural repairs at 11 of its schools prior to the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

It has also submitted 13 applications to the New Jersey Schools Development Authority [NJSDA] for projects at:

  • Woodrow Wilson High School [$38 million]
  •  Veterans Memorial Family School [$14 million]
  • Yorkship Family School [$12.8 million]
  •  Hatch Middle School [$12.1 million]
  •  Cooper’s Poynt Family School [$11.8 million]
  • Cramer Elementary School [$8.5 million]
  • Wiggins Elementary School [$8 million]
  •  Henry H. Davis Family School [$7.7 million]
  • Harry C. Sharp Elementary School [$5.4 million]
  • Thomas H. Dudley Family School [$1.2 million]
  • Catto Family School [$750,000]
  • Forest Hill Elementary School [$500,000]
  • Bonsall Annex [$500,000]

The projects total $122 million, and range from heating and air conditioning replacements; to roof work; to new windows, doors and elevators; to elevator and electrical repairs.

According to McCombs, even if both requests are met, the school district will have a remaining $20 million in less urgent repairs that are needed.

“As part of our long term plan to return to local control, I am working with the state to see how we can sustain safe school buildings with high quality learning and working environments,” McCombs said.

If the district is unable to secure the funding, it will continue to use its operating budget and use strategic thinking to prioritize the most urgent needs using its emergency funds, said Onome Pela-Emore, chief operations officer.

The NJSDA is currently building the $130 million new Camden High School.

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