By Publisher Albert J. Countryman Jr.
After wondering for seven years if the proposed new middle school in Gloucester City would ever be built, Governor Chris Christie announced last week that it will, in fact, be built.
The demolition of 68 homes and two businesses by the state through eminent domain in 2005 had cut a hole in the City, bounded by Jersey Avenue, Market Street, and Fifth and Sixth streets.
This created a lot of heartache among those who had to move, and the loss of tax ratables hurt Gloucester City.
Now, the cost to the state, including environmental clean-up already completed, plans already drawn up, the cost of buying the homes, their demolition, new plans and the actual construction, could approach $100 million.
Many people still question whether a school that big is needed, and if students from other districts will attend.
Many citizens and business leaders in New Jersey wonder if this kind of money being spent on the so-called “Abbott Districts” is even fair to other towns and state taxpayers – as it was mandated by the NJ State Supreme Court and not the State Senate and Assembly.
And, here in Gloucester City, many residents are still skeptical that – even after last week’s announcement – the new middle school will ever get built.
Despite all of these concerns, I still think the building of the state-of-the-art school will be a benefit to our students.
I firmly believe that education is the best way for a person to advance on a very slippery economic ladder to success these days, and that a new school will create a positive, learning environment for our children.
School Superintendent Paul Spaventa called the office last week with the “exciting” news, and said the following:
“I am extremely happy for the staff and students of our school district. It has been a long and arduous task that has thankfully been rewarded with a new school.
“I am grateful to the School Development Authority for acknowledging our needs and confirming our
belief that a new school was necessary,” Spaventa said.
“This will not only extend the educational opportunities for our students, but will help in the revitalization of Gloucester City,” he said.
State Senator Donald Norcross (D-5), released the following statement regarding the governor's announce-ment of new school construction projects to be undertaken by the Schools Development Authority (SDA).
“I applaud the SDA for honoring their commitment to build a new middle school in Gloucester City.
“As a member of the Legislature's Joint Committee on the Public Schools, I have made the Gloucester City project a priority given the high level of need and the ongoing costs incurred by the city's pursuit of this new school for their children.
“I was also encouraged to find that Camden City High School has been formally identified by the SDA as a facility with serious deficiencies that must be addressed, as this decision is long overdue.
“Last week’s announcement is welcome news for the students in these schools. I urge the SDA to act quickly on behalf of all our students to ensure that they have a learning environment that is productive and safe.
“There are still far too many students suffering in sub-standard and dangerous facilities across our state -- especially in Southern New Jersey, which remains underrepresented on this list,” Norcross wrote.
In the past seven years when I would ride by and see the vacant ground, I would hang my head in disbelief.
Now, I will raise it in hope one more time.