Education Group Calls For Probe on School Repairs

PATERSON, NJ – A Newark-based advocacy group is calling for a legislative investigation the Christie administration’s handling of school repairs that supposed to be done on an expedited basis, including 15 projects in Paterson.

The Education Law Center (ELC) has sent a letter to Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, urging them to examine the lack of progress at the Schools Development Authority (SDA) , the state agency that handles construction projects in New Jersey’s poorest school districts.

Last March, urban school districts from around New Jersey ask the SDA to do 700 “emergent projects,’’ which are defined as those “where health-and-safety reasons dictate that rehabilitation work is necessary on an expedited basis.’’ Among the $4.4 million worth of Paterson projects on the list awaiting state action are sewerage repairs at School 15 and boilers at Kennedy and Eastside highs.

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The state says it has determined that 400 of those projects did not fit the criteria for the funding.

“In an effort to assess the remaining conditions, site visit teams comprised of SDA and DOE staff visited and evaluated all of the remaining 300 conditions at over 190 different schools,’’ the SDA said in a statement. “The results of the site visits are currently under review to identify which conditions warrant advancement as emergent projects.  Additionally, SDA and DOE are developing a strategy for advancing those emergent conditions that require attention, since the school facility issues far exceed the available $100 million funding.”

The ELC says the state is not moving fast enough. “ Now six months later, the districts have yet to receive notice of the status of these projects, or any information that these emergencies will actually be addressed by the State,’’ said a press release issued by the advocacy group.

"These and other concerns require an immediate, thorough and complete investigation, especially given the imminent threat to the health and safety of thousands of children, teachers and other staff using SDA school buildings where these emergent conditions exist every school day," the press release said.

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