NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The safety of Lincoln Annex School students “has been a concern” to the superintendent because of ambulances that frequently rush down Somerset Street en route to the adjacent hospital.
In addition to the school’s proximity to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Aubrey Johnson said he has been bothered by the fact that it does not have an outdoor recess area for its 750 or so students in grades 3-7.
The fate of the school and the students who go there was addressed by several residents at the Nov. 19 Board of Education meeting.
Board of Education President Diana Solis said that board administrator/secretary Richard Jannarone and district director of facility design and construction Frank LoDolce had previously met with representatives of the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO).
Jannarone refused to say who represented DEVCO at that meeting and board attorney Ted Hendricks said that information is “not subject to disclosure at this time.”
Solis acknowledged that there were preliminary discussions on Oct. 11 about Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s desire to build a cancer center on the site. She stressed that “there are no proposals as of yet.”
To Johnson, Lincoln Annex School’s location and facilities are far from ideal.
“Since I have been superintendent, the location of the Lincoln Annex has been a concern to me just for safety,” he said at the Nov. 19 meeting. “The reason is that, when I go there, I have to watch the number of ambulances running up and down the street. The traffic pattern for students to me is alarming and it does bring some concerns. Even as a resident or parent or whatever, I wonder about that. There are ambulances coming up and down that street during dismissals. I’m just waiting … . I know we have good people on point and watching, but that community, that area is really congested.”
When talking about the lack of a recess area, Johnson said that “as superintendent, if anyone approached me that may provide a better outcome, I would listen.”
Many parents of student at the Lincoln Annex School have voiced concern that their children would be shifted to the district’s facility at 40 Van Dyke Ave. Referred to by some as “the Swing Space” and as “the Warehouse” by others, the building is located in the heart of an industrial complex. It is already home to the district’s P-TECH program.
About 50 residents attended the Oct. 15 Board of Education meeting to show their opposition of the school’s possible sale.
The Fifth and Sixth Ward Neighborhood Association hosted two community meetings to discuss ways to mount a grassroots campaign to block the potential sale of the school.
In fact, a rally is scheduled to be held today at 3 p.m. outside the school at 165 Somerset St.
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.
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.
Business administrator and board secretary Richard Jannarone said in September that the district spent $22 million to convert the school. Over the summer, installation of solar panels was completed as part of a large-scale, multimillion-dollar project involving multiple schools.
Hendricks confirmed that the diocese put some deed restrictions on the property and that they would need to be addressed if the school were to be sold.
Although Solis said there have been no proposals to buy the site, she said, “We have expressed to them what the school district would need.”
When asked what the district would need, she said, “We would need a facility that would be able to house the amount of students, well, not the amount of students at that school now, but more than that. We would project for a larger school, a school that’s state of the art and provides all the amenities that a state-of-the-art school would need.”