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Profile of a New Jersey school construction fiasco in Paterson |


So far, the state’s school construction agency has wasted millions of dollars, rushing to acquire properties and break ground for schools without sufficient planning. A few of the biggest examples:

GLOUCESTER CITY — Nearly $13 million was spent to buy and tear down 70 properties, amounting to a $3.5 million loss in taxable properties, to make way for a school that still doesn’t exist.

CAMDEN — The state bought 34 properties — gutting three city blocks next to a downtown area that local leaders had hoped would lead the city’s revitalization — and there’s still no new school.

PHILLIPSBURG — Hundreds of high schoolers still take classes in dozens of trailers, which the state has leased for more than a decade at a cost of more than $100,000 annually. The state built seven athletic fields and sank millions into site development for a planned school that remains a field full of weeds. As the trailers keep multiplying, the school’s auditorium is used for study hall, the library for classes and the faculty lounge as a pottery room. “Sometimes, we use the bathroom as a counseling center,” said Phillipsburg’s school nurse, Linda Frick. “It’s a quiet room. You get creative.”

NEW BRUNSWICK — Students at Redshaw Elementary School are housed in a large warehouse at an industrial complex, where they’ve been stuck since their building was knocked down in 2006. Thanks to the smell from neighboring factories, the whole school is “like a stink bomb,” according to one fifth-grader.

— Julie O’Connor