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Flood Damage to Its Boilers and Electrical System Leaves School No. 4’s Reopening Uncertain

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School No. 4
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PATERSON, NJ – As students from School No. 4 begin the academic year scattered at three different locations, city education officials are trying to figure out when they will be able to reopen the flood-damaged building.

Under the best-case scenario, officials said the repairs would take 30 to 90 days. But School 4 may stay closed the entire year if the building’s boiler cannot be repaired by October 15, officials said. The district is looking into the possibility of installing an auxiliary generator to pump heat into the building this winter, officials said.

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The building at 55 Clinton Street had three feet of water on its ground floor in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, said state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans. Textbooks and other education equipment were ruined as a result, Evans said.

The district is conducting an evaluation of the building’s boiler as well as its electrical system. “That will be the first step in determining the next step,’’ said Business Administrator Carol Fredericks during the September 7 Board of Education workshop meeting.

To start the school year, School 4 students in kindergarten through sixth grade will go to St. Mary Help of Christians at 95 Sherman Street, the seventh and eighth grades will go to 137 Ellison Street, which had housed the Education academy last year, and students in self-contained special education classes will go to School No. 28.

For all PS#4 students who normally walk to school, buses are being provided from outside School 4. Pick-up time is 7:15 am. All other students will be picked up from their normal bus stop.

The district is paying $38,419 per month to rent the space at St. Mary’s, according to a resolution approved by the board of education. The cost of the space at 137 Ellison was unclear. Last year, the district paid Pella Reality $408,732 to lease the Ellison Street site for the Education academy.

The cost for the rental to replace School 4 is just part of the district’s Hurricane Irene. The Board of Education already has approved $400,000 worth of emergency flood remediation and cleanup services in order to open all city schools. On top of that is the expense of equipment and school supplies ruined by the flooding and the cost of repairing the systems at School 4.

Paterson Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges said district officials ought to consider putting the building boilers at School 4 above ground level so they would be less likely to get damaged in flooding.  Otherwise, he warned the district would be wasting money on the repairs at a school where flooding has become relatively common.

“Possibly, his spring it will happen again,’’ Hodges said. “We’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on this.’’

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