PATERSON, NJ- Demolition began on the former site of Don Bosco Tech on Tuesday, kicking off Phase One of a plan to build a brand new middle school on the Union Ave site. 

The building most recently housed the Paterson Arts and Science Charter School which relocated to Grand Street earlier this year. 

At a ceremony celebrating the progress towards the new school, many came out to pay their respects to Don Bosco which closed its doors in 2002. Michael Johnson, class of ’95, was there to see his alma mater off. “I have many memories of this school. It took care of so many people from this community.”

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The demolition and removal of the old technical school, run by the Catholic Church, is only Phase One of the program. Phase Two will encompass the construction of the new middle school that is expected to begin in the Spring of next year.

The school is being built by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA), a state agency that provides funding and management for school creation, renovation, and modernization. The organization recently built School #16 Dr. Hani Awadallah E.S. and International H.S. in Paterson, and has invested over $415 million in Paterson since its creation in 2007.

Charles McKenna, CEO of SDA, spoke about the project “The demolition activity commencing today, continues the SDA’s ongoing commitment to provide the students of Paterson with the educational infrastructure needed to help them achieve success.”

The new facility is planned to be 161,000 square feet and will hold up to 1,000 students in grades 6-8. It will include 36 classrooms, 9 science labs, a cafeteria, a computer lab and a media center. The final cost is expected to be $112.9 million. The city is planning for it to be opened by September 2021.

Currently two schools, numbers 5 and 24, are without facilities with attending students being bussed to buildings once occupied by Paterson Catholic. Acting Superintendent Eileen Shafer is ready to see these students be able to attend schools in their own neighborhoods.

She praised the work of the SDA in working with her to embrace a “Together We Can” attitude that has helped “to ensure that a new 21st century school building will be constructed for the children of this specific neighborhood” because “our children deserve it.”

Though this new building leaves Don Bosco squarely in the past, it won’t be forgotten just yet. After the ceremony, alumni stuck around to take home bricks from the old building as mementos of a place they once called home.

Board of Education Commissioner, Emmanuel Capers, grew up a few blocks away and graduated from Don Bosco in 2001. He says he was skeptical of going to an all-boys school, but changed his mind after the school taught him “how to be a young man” and build his character.” 

He played both years on Don Bosco’s short-lived football team, and proudly remembers that one of his teachers, Father Tom, held a patent on microwave keypads.

Capers had mixed emotions about witnessing the end of a place that meant so much to him.

“I’m sad to see it go, but I still love to see where its headed. The future is much brighter.”