NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - School district officials have met with members of New Brunswick Development Corporation to discuss the real estate development entity's interest in building on the land currently occupied by Lincoln Annex School.
New Brunswick Board of Education President Diana Solis said at Tuesday night's meeting that she, board administrator/secretary Richard Jannarone and district director of facility design and construction Frank LoDolce met with DEVCO representatives last week.
"We do not have any official offers," Solis said. "However, we are aware that they are interested in that location. There was a meeting last week. DEVCO called our district. (We) had a meeting with Mr. Jannarone and Mr. LoDolce where the possibility was discussed. However, like (board attorney George Hendricks) has informed you, there's nothing on paper. There's no official offer."
The possible sale of the school, which is home to 750 students grades 3-7 on Somerset Street, came to light last month. Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson revealed there were discussions to sell the school during an event to celebrate the official opening of the P-TECH curriculum at the building on Van Dyke Avenue
In June, RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, in partnership with DEVCO, announced plans to build a state-of-the-art, free-standing cancer pavilion in New Brunswick. The estimated cost of the project is $750 million.
Officials said the cancer pavilion will be located on the property immediately adjacent to the existing Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey campus, although its exact location was not identified at the press conference to announce the project.
The Lincoln Annex School is just yards away from RWJ.
DEVCO President Chris Paladino responded to a question about the project at Tuesday's press conference to announce the refurbishing and repairing of the city's train station - a press conference attended by Governor Phil Murphy.
When asked if it was true that the Lincoln Annex School would be destroyed to make way for the cancer pavilion, Murphy deferred to Paladino.
Paladino stepped forward and said, "The Cancer Institute needs to be directly connected to the existing hospital facility by a bridge. We can't cross the train tracks. We have to be able to move the patients back and forth."
Paladino has announced on his Facebook page that the plan is to start construction on the cancer pavilion in fall 2020.
Five residents told the board last night that they are concerned about what would happen if the Lincoln Annex School is sold and destroyed before a replacement school is built.
When asked if it would only take a resolution by the board to sell the school, Hendricks said, "I think there would be money changing hands, there would have to be resolutions, it would have to be posted in our agenda, there would have to be hearings if there is a contract to purchase or sale. It always comes before the public. That's generic. This is no different."
One resident mentioned that the board's agenda for Tuesday's meeting was posted on the district's website five hours before the meeting. When the board members were asked if they could promise they would give the public a month's notice if there is a resolution to sell the school, Hendricks said, "Yes, there would be adequate public notice and I'm not talking five hours."
Lincoln Annex School opened in September 2016 and is the most recent school to open in New Brunswick. It was the former home to St. Peter's School. The district paid $7.4 million to buy it from the Catholic Diocese.
Jannarone said at last month's school board meeting that the district spent $22 million to refurbish the school.