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SECOND PART: The History of the Gloucester City Elementary Middle School | cnbnews.net


By William E. Cleary

6a00d8341bf7d953ef017d3ede32a2970c-350wiOn September 21, 2010, the Gloucester City School District hosted a meeting of the New Jersey School Development Authority (SDA). At that meeting, the local School Development Committee presented documents detailing the investment made locally by city residents and federal and state agencies since 2004. As far as we know, this is the first time the information has been shared with local residents. CNBNews found the documents surfing for information about hidden costs for this multi-million- dollar project. Over the years, we have repeatedly asked local school officials for that number but never received a straight answer.  

Editor's Note: Links are provided to some of the sources we used to compile the article. If any official finds a mistake in the numbers bring it to our attention so a correction can be made.The cost for this project is $64 million. Add to that number the $20 million it cost to clear the Superfund site of contaminants from the proposed property along with the amount of local tax ratables lost, $3,543,500 and the amount totals $87,543,500.

To see the entire 82-page document (click here).

Here is an excerpt from the 2010 document: 

  History of Project

  On July 2, 2002, the Gloucester City Superintendent of Schools received a letter stating: The Department of Education accepts the District’s feasibility study that indicated that for efficiency, it would be more feasible to replace, rather than renovate the Mary Ethel Costello Elementary School for use as an elementary/middle school.

 *The existing Mary Ethel Costello Elementary School is an appropriate site to house the alternative/transitional high school program. 

 The initiation of this project in 2004 required the land acquisition of over 70 homes and businesses through eminent domain.

The following is a listing of the investment made to this project thus far: 

 Land Acquisition…………………………………..$10,050,902

 EPA Site Remediation…………………………… 20,000,000 

 *Total Ratables Lost……………………………….3,543,500 

 Demolition…………………………………………       1,130,141

 Predevelopment Activities………………………. 1,030,101

Design fees……………………………………….       1,001,128

 Permit,Utilities, Municipal Fees…………………  352,473

 City Site Remediation……………………………      225,000

 City Miscellaneous……………………………….          20,000

 **TOTAL EXPENDITURES…………………………..$37,353,245 plus

Once completed the 122,000 square foot facility will be used to educate 687 students in grades 4 through 8. The original amount budgeted by the SDA for the school was $76 million. (See Project Description HERE)

 The new school will include 27 general classrooms, eight special education classrooms, three science classrooms, a cafetorium with stage, gymnasium, media center, computer lab and administrative offices. The new school will be built using a design-build approach.

 It has taken 10 years for the school to reach the final stage. The project is scheduled to begin in early 2015 and is expected to be finished by September 2017. There are some in the community who have been against the construction of the middle school since it was first announced. They allude to low enrollment figures and are afraid that children from outside the district will be bussed into the new facility to fill it. They suggest M.E. Costello School, which is presently being used to house some of these students, could be renovated for less money. They were particularly upset that 70 homes and two businesses had to be demolished to make room for the facility.  (See 1979 School District Master Plan)

 School board members and administrators, however, fought for the construction of the new school from the beginning. Former School Superintendent Paul Spaventa and past School Board President Louisa Llewellyn  addressed the SDA Board in 2010 pleading for the new school. 

 At the September 21, 2010 SDA hearing, Spaventa said the proposed middle school was unpopular with residents mostly because of all the homes that had to be demolished to make room for it. ................................(SEE ARTICLE)

At the same 2010 meeting, Marc Larkins, chief executive officer of the SDA pointed to the Gloucester City project as the kind of project that may be untenable.  Larkins said the lack of money is one problem.

 “It will be a fabulous school, I’m sure, but the question is how many $67 million elementary schools can the state afford to build?” ..............(SEE ARTICLE) 

Listed in the 2010 presentation to SDA members was the following: 

The Mary Ethel Costello School is over 100 years. In its current state, the annual cost to maintain the building is approximately $500,000.

Ridgeway side roof of the building which is 30 years old was recently replaced and the front half repaired.

Slow elevator lifts

Condemned hallways leading to the gym

Low electrical amp service/poor lighting

No public address system available from any room other that front office-security issue

The cafeteria is small, therefore, four lunches are necessary, cutting into instructional time. 

To see the entire 82-page document (click here).

More recently, (March 2013) John Rodden, president of the Gloucester City Education Association, and a teacher, appeared before the SDA Board urging members to give their approval. At that meeting, Roden described vacant sites where homes had been razed and businesses relocated causing the community a loss of tax ratables {$3.5 million}. He mentioned  many of the poor conditions at the school cited in the 2010 document plus: asbestos issues; roof leaks requiring buckets in hallways; insect issues; health issues; structural chimney issues and a boiler that has surpassed its life expectancy. Also noted were: the lack of internet service due to poor wiring resulting from ongoing conditions and shared classrooms. The reduction of State aid to the City was also cited. 

 Rodden said that the children are at a disadvantage when taking standardized tests due to the adverse conditions in the school. He added that numerous robberies involving guns have taken place at a bank across the street from the school, but security measures have not been put in place at the school. (SEE REMARKS). 

Besides Terminal Construction Corp., two other contractors were also considered for the work. They included Ernest Bock & Sons Inc, who bid $37,685 and T.N. Ward Company, bid $43,117, 480. The price proposals were publicly opened on June 12, 2014, and the bids were read aloud as required by law.  (For further information go here). : 

Unknown So who is paying for the new school? 

 According to state and local officials, it is not costing city residents a dime. The cost they say is being paid by the state and federal government. Of course, they forget to mention that the taxpayers living in Gloucester City, as well as those taxpayers living in every community throughout the state of New Jersey, are the people who fund the government.

What will happen to the 100-year old Mary Ethel Costello School building, Cumberland and Joy Streets? It was mentioned one time that the school would be used for administrative offices, but that is doubtful because of its condition.  More then likely it will end up like some of the other old neighborhood school buildings in the city and just sit there empty. 


source of image Gloucester City Public Schools

*(CNBNews’ note) That program was eventually placed in the Highland Park Elementary School after is was closed as a result of the Cold Springs School opening. Cost to renovate it, approximately $5 million. Presently the HP school is empty, the students and teachers were moved to the high school. The school is for sale. The ratables lost between September 21, 2010 to August 2014 is not known. It would be fair to say that since another four years has passed since this number was first presented, the amount of local ratables loss would be much higher than $3.5 million.

**(CNBNews’ note)- You will find some of the expenditures listed above were moved to the present day project cost. As far as we know in 2010 these figures were never shared locally with residents.