NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The Board of Education will receive a formal proposal for the purchase of the Lincoln Annex School, which sits on a land that builders have identified as an ideal site for a $750 million cancer pavilion.
Board president Diana Solis said at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting that a proposal in writing is expected in the coming weeks after a meeting with Mayor Jim Cahill.
Solis told TAPinto New Brunswick that she, Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson and board business administrator/secretary Richard Jannarone met with Cahill at City Hall last week.
She said they were told that the forthcoming proposal is expected to include plans for a new school to replace the Lincoln Annex School – which received a $22 million facelift using tax dollars before opening in 2015.
A site has been identified as a potential future home for a new school, but Solis declined to say specifically where that site is.
“We would not sell ourselves short when it comes to facilities,” she said. “Absolutely not. One thing that we keep hearing is that we put taxpayer money into bringing the former St. Peter’s High School/Elementary School up to par. But I can tell you as a parent of that school, when that school first opened, even with all the repairs we made, there was still flooding in the basement. There were other concerns. There is no playground. There were many concerns – not enough parking. It’s on a busy street. There’s always been many concerns that we really have to address. And I think it would be, I guess, foolish of us not to consider the opportunity to be able to have a brand new facility for our district that would take us into the future because we’re just not thinking about right now.
“So, we look forward to receiving the proposal.”
RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, in partnership with New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), unveiled plans to build a state-of-the-art, free-standing cancer pavilion in New Brunswick at a June press conference.
Although plans were announced for the pavilion to house key outpatient services, including those for chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as the major diagnostic modalities, and inpatient cancer services, the future location of the facility was not identified at the press conference.
In September, Johnson revealed that there was interest in buying Lincoln Annex, which is home to about 750 students grades 3-7. Solis confirmed at a board meeting the following month that Jannarone and district director of facility design and construction Frank LoDolce met with DEVCO representatives about the sale of the school.
Chris Paladino, the president of DEVCO, said the construction of the pavilion needs to take place near the hospital to ensure safe transport of patients back and forth. Lincoln Annex is just yards from RWJUH’s front door on Somerset Street.
On his Facebook page, Paladino indicated that construction of the pavilion would start in the fall.
The sale of the school has been a popular topic for discussion at board meetings since October.
Tuesday’s meeting was by far the most heated one since the potential sale of the school came to light.
Dozens of people in the audience were outraged when they discovered they were not going to be allowed to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting because they had not listed themselves on a sign-up sheet before the meeting began.
Many people in the audience at New Brunswick High School’s auditorium immediately began yelling and calling out. David Hughes, the treasurer of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, yelled out, “There will be additional people speaking.”
At one point, dozens of people in the audience began chanting, “We have the right to speak.”
Solis banged the gavel several times and suggested that she would declare the meeting out of order and end the proceedings.
When audience members continued to complain, board attorney George Hendricks told them, “We do it every meeting. We’ve been doing it 50 years that way. We have a sign-in sheet.”
Of the five people who signed up to speak, only one addressed the possible sale of Lincoln Annex School. He asked for the people who came to the meeting to oppose the sale of the school to stand up.
About 75 people remained standing as he asked the board to “promise at least that Lincoln Annex will open in September. Can you promise us that much, that we’re going to get the school for 2020 and 2021?”
“I make no such promise,” Solis responded.
The possibility that Lincoln Annex School students could be temporarily bused to the school district’s facility at 40 Van Dyke Ave. was a topic of conversation at the November Board of Education meeting. That space, sometimes referred to as “The Swing Space” or “The Warehouse,” is about 1.7 miles away from Lincoln Annex.