Jersey City BOE wants to meet with city officials to meet school needs amid increased new development
The Jersey City School Board is requesting to meet with Mayor Steve Fulop and the City Council to discuss the school district’s future needs as the city continues to see a new wave of real estate development in several neighborhoods.
In a letter, school officials expressed concern about the impact the city’s development will have on classroom space for future students who may move to the city. Officials want to discuss “the need to identify the immediate and future needs of our public schools.”
“Many of our schools are already overcrowded,” school officials said in the letter dated February 16. “Some of our children are bussed to schools outside their neighborhood where open spaces are available.
“Many of our schools are over 100 years old and need major repairs and upgrades to their facilities in order to use them fully. We ask to resume meetings with the Mayor and City Council members to discuss how to plan for our ever-changing city. »
All nine school board members and Acting Superintendent Norma Fernandez signed the letter. Fernandez and BOE Chairman Gerald Lyons could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said the city is always open to discussing how it can work with the school board to create more schools. She said the city has created “more than 1,000 public school seats in new facilities.”
“We also offered the BOE simple solutions to improve their space by following their own consultants, who pointed out that some schools in Jersey City were well below capacity while others were overflowing,” Wallace-Scalcione said. “So the BOE needs to be proactive in addressing some of the issues with internal policy changes that it can make immediately.”
The school board received a plan in November that would remove school trailers, remodel and refurbish old buildings, add new gymnasiums and wings to schools to reduce overcrowding. The long-term facilities plan looked at the reorganization of schools and presents options that include “re-districting” or rearranging geographic boundaries to attend a neighborhood school.
The school district is one of the largest in the state with approximately 30,000 students. Of its 49 buildings, more than half are over 90 years old.
Lisa Schnettler, president of the McNair Academic Parent Student Alumni Association, briefed the BOE on current issues currently facing one of the oldest buildings in the school district. She pointed to “catastrophic pipe failures”, non-functional toilets, heat issues in six classrooms and various work orders that have remained open since October, including lighting and electrical work.
“Pipes burst in classrooms and seeped through the ceiling to students and teachers. It really started in mid-December. As of now, we haven’t really started repairs,” Schnettler told the BOE during Tuesday’s caucus meeting. “Teachers have been moved. The students were moved. Learning was disrupted…at one point…there were actually serious concerns about whether we were going to have enough functional classrooms to accommodate all the students.
Jersey City has seen a lot of development over the years and will continue to grow with projects such as the Bayfront Redevelopment Project which will feature 8,100 residential units on the Hackensack River waterfront.
But that’s just one of many planned developments slated to take place near Route 440, including a 3,076-unit project on Water Street. Journal Square and Jersey City’s West Side are also thriving areas where development continues, but the city will also see its Scitech Scity project near Liberty State Park being phased in.
While some projects like Bayfront and Scitech Scity are expected to include schools, it’s unclear whether these projects will meet the needs of residents with children who come to town. Areas like the city center need new schools the most, as many children are bussed to other schools in the city due to overcrowding.
The school most recently added to the district is School Annex 16 on Washington Boulevard, which is the result of meetings at City Hall between Mayor Fulop, City Council members, school board trustees and administrators of the JCBOE, the letter states.