PATERSON, NJ - Ask students at the Academy of Health Sciences if there's anything at their school they would like to change and they respond without hesitation - the leaky roof. Rainy days mean there will be buckets and basins in their classrooms and hallways, they say. Once, a section of a classroom ceiling caved in because of the leaks, they say.
City school officials agree they have problems with building, which they lease from Maverick Management Corp. for $425,000 a year. "It's needs are so significant and it's a substandard facility,'' said school board member Jonathan Hodges. "We've made attempts to repair it, but it doesn't seem to ameliorate the problem.''
The cost of the cost of the repairs has been shared by the landlord and the school district, education officials said. However, they said they could not provide details on how much the school and property owner have spent to try to fix the building, which is at the Main Street Mall, site of the former Meyer Brothers Department Store.
"We address facility problems as they arise to ensure the safety of our students and staff,'' said the school district's spokeswoman, Terry Corallo. The lease on the school, commonly known as HARP, expires in 2012, she said. "The Superintendent would like to find a new facility for HARP as soon as we can,'' Corallo said.
During the summer, the district was considering relocating the school to the Center City mall at a rental rate more than six time higher than what it pays for the current location, according to an article on northjersey.com. But those plans were dropped.
Hodges said problems at the HARP extend beyond the roof. "It just doesn't fit the needs of the school,'' he said.
HARP's 265 students are studying for careers in the health field. Their curriculum places a heavy emphasis on science and math. Nevertheless, the bad conditions at the building haven't seemed to interfere with the students' success. About 72 percent of them move on to complete four-year colleges, according to the school district.