NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

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published February 22, 2010 6a00d8341bf7d953ef01b7c78436c8970b-320wi


Category Bills Point of View


By William E. Cleary Sr.

I was clearing out a file cabinet recently and found a copy of the Gloucester City School LotDistrict Facilities Master Plan prepared in 1979 by Robert F. Strauss and Associates.

Looking through that 100-page document I found it astonishing how close the author came to predicting the decline in student enrollment over a 10 year period beginning in 1978 and ending in 1988. In 1978 the total enrollment was 2493 and it was predicted that figure would decrease to 1854 by the year 1988.

Photo: Sign announcing the construction of the New Elementary-Middle School


The latest figures for Gloucester City schools provided to the Brooklawn School District for the year 2009 reveal that there are 1706 students enrolled in Gloucester City School grades K-12 and 239 in preschool for a total of 1945. The present K-12 figure is 148 students less than in 1988 which show that the decline is continuing.

Incidentally in the past enrollment figures were released monthly to the public by the Gloucester City School Superintendent/Board of Education. That practice is no longer the norm.

1979 Master Plan Summary and Recommendations for the Gloucester City School District

In light of the declining enrollments and the rated condition of the elementary schools in Gloucester City, it is recommended that the following sequence of events be instituted:

1. The Highland Park School be renovated and a small addition constructed to comply with current state school building code requirements- Estimated Cost $400,000.

2. The Gloucester Heights School be converted to office and support staff use with 4 classrooms retained for school use as well. Estimated cost $200,000 Completion by January 1982

3. Former offices in Costello School be renovated for class purposes. Estimated cost $50,000 without furnishings; estimated increased capacity 50 pupils. Completion by September 1982

4. Broadway School be abandoned for public school purposes and donated to the municipality for community use or sold by September 1982.

5. Brown Street School be abandoned for educational purposes and donated to the municipality for community use or sold by September 1983.

In addition to the foregoing, it is recommended that Costello renovations continue until Schoolhouse Guide requirements are met, and high school additions and renovations be made to provide the facilities currently not available and to meet Guide requirements.

A preliminary estimate for both schools total $2.3 million, but closer architectural studies are required to refine these figures. The total cost for the district would then be about $3 million.

The District will retain considerable flexibility in its use of the remaining facilities while lowering costs by having two less buildings to operate and maintain. In addition certain options will remain open to the District. If pupil population declines further, all or some of the classes can be closed in Gloucester Heights. If pupil population increases unexpectedly, all of Gloucester Heights can be retained for educational purposes, and the offices move to Brown Street School instead.

Move forward to the1990’s Gloucester City applies for the ABBOTT label. There is much celebration among local politicians, school board members and some residents as 350 apartments are demolished to make way for the Cold Springs School. The price tag for the K-3 building nearly $20 million. A few years later more millions are used to build a preschool next to Cold Springs as it is mandated by the state.

Asked who is picking up the tab and in chorus our leaders tell us, “It’s the state, not going to cost local taxpayers a cent more in taxes.” No one gives any thought to the fact that you and everyone else that lives in Gloucester City are the people who pay the state taxes.  It is still your money that is paying for this school and others that are being built in 30 ABBOTT Districts across New Jersey.

Jump ahead 30 years Gloucester City still has its hands out waiting for the state to fund yet another school. Seventy homes and one business were demolished to make room for this school. The land has sat vacant for the last six years.

As for the cost for the new middle school, it depends on who is doing the talking as it ranges from $60 million to $66 million. Again our elected officials tell us, “Don’t worry, the state is picking up the cost for this school too. It won’t cost us a cent. We are entitled, Gloucester City is a poor community.”

Because the City’s middle school (4th through 8th) enrollment figures are low, approximately 580 students, there is speculation that the state will force the closure of the Alice Costello School in Brooklawn to increase that number. The Brooklawn School Board has voiced opposition to that plan.

New Jersey is facing bankruptcy according to state politicians. February 11 the newly elected Governor, Chris Christie declared a state of emergency laying the groundwork to make a range of cuts that included $475 million in state aid being withheld from more than 500 school districts. The state will withhold $686,805 from the Gloucester City School District. Christie said the state budget has a $2.2 billion shortfall created by falling revenue and increased costs for various programs. That figure fluctuates depending on who you talk to in Trenton. But all will agree New Jersey is facing bankruptcy if cutbacks are not made soon.

As for the future of the proposed middle school Mayor Bill James said last Friday, “I have reached out and spoke with the Regional Director of Intergovernmental Services for the Governor’s Office and questioned Peter Sheridan Jr. as to the impact that the Governors Budget Plan would have on the responsibilities of the School Development Authority (SDA). Mr. Sheridan advised that this item would be separate from the announced mandatory School Aid cuts and required surplus usage, but that he would have to conduct some research and get back to me with an answer as it relates to the future plans of our New Middle School Construction.”

Should NJ Taxpayers pay to construct a $60 million middle school in Gloucester City? SEE POLL RIGHT HAND TOP CORNER

2009 Enrollment figures for Gloucester City Public School by grade

Pre-K        239

K              139

1              142

2              133
3               110

4               131

5               116

6               109

7                 94

8                130

9                136    # includes Brooklawn

10              161      "              "

11              153      "              "

12               152     "              "

TOTAL: 1,945

Note: without the state mandated pre-school the number would be reduced to 


The year the new high school was opened the district's enrollment was:

*1960-61 = 2,405

*1961-62 = 2,550


Enrollment has steadily declined since that time.  

*source Gloucester City School District



HsWkr said...

It does not appear that the numbers support a $65 million dollar expenditure. It is time to think about alternative plans.

The rateable lost can never be recovered. We need to cut our losses. Put the vacant land to good use now. Build low density homes.

Long said...

I think the city should build homes on the land, price the homes between 150 and 200.Make them single family maybe even twins, with decent size yards. You sell the homes make money off them and then the property tax. Sell them to families or residents of the city. Dont sell to the investors that are running this city into the ground.

GMAFB said...

Why would you build low density homes in the middle of the densest part of Gloucester? They would be completely out of character and it would be an inefficient use of the land.

If the aren't going to build the school, they should sell some land for new homes and make the rest into a nice park.

reader said...

Just a thought? Maybe with the building of the new middle school, the city and the board of education could bus more students from other towns in and charge the same as they do for brooklawn or more and make money on the deal to help pay for salary increases and retirement funding in the future. Also lets not forget the big union contracts for building such a school.
One more point, If the original money that was approved by the state for this school wasn't "WASTED AND MISMANAGED" this school and five others would already be built. Thank your democrats for that also. By the way the amount that was "WASTED AND MISMANAGED" was 221 million dollars.

Tell it like it is said...

The fact that Gorman Administration ignored the study we paid for is no different than what the James Administration is doing.

Didn't the James Administration order a new Master Plan be written. The writer will write whatever you want on the paper for a nominal fee. It is how you keep the public from accusing you of failure to follow the PLAN. Write the PLAN to reflect what you want to do and have done. Hind sight is always 20/20.

It is a perfect reason to allow the voters to make major monitory decisions. The Democrat Club and Ward System have proven to be ineffective.

Ernie said...

I would take the land and let Gloucester Catholic use it for a track and fields.

No School Needed said...

No matter what your poll says they aren't going to listen, you elect them they think they own the joint

Don't Take Things So Seriously said in reply to Ernie...

Go find Bert

Michael Esposito said...

Just think how many people were thrown out of their homes to make way for this $70 million school that is not needed.
And all those who lived in the Hughes Avenue apartments uprooted. Instead of the school board making the repairs for $3 million they chose to spend $40 million on two schools that were not needed.

The members of the Board of Education should be sitting in a jail cell. They had to know that enrollment was decreasing at the same time they were shouting to spend millions on new school buildings.

I blame those same board members for the influx of section 8 housing, the increase in apartments, which resulted in the downfall of our community.

To think they want to fill the middle school with kids from Brooklawn. That means busing kids from Brooklawn. What about the teachers in that school what will happen to them?

Does the plans also call for busing kids in from Camden? It wouldn’t surprise me,


maybe a do nothing government would be better said in reply to Michael Esposito...

If today's city fathers were in place back in the early 90's, perhaps they would have bought the Highland Park Apartments, as they did with Chatham Square.
It's obvious that a city with declining population would have declining enrollment in it's schools. The problem with city, county, state and federal governments is that they can't stop spending money.
Don't you wish the Camden County/Gloucester County line started north of Gloucester, right under the Walt Whitman bridge?

bulldoze all of Gtown said...

That land looks better now than it ever did. We should knock down more homes.

CNBNewsnet said...

At the same time the City was declaring eminent domain over the Hughes Avenue apartments the owner was in the middle of selling the apartments to a man who was going to renovate the property into a 55 and older development. Of course that would have given us a tax ratable which would have helped pay city employees salaries and reduce the amount residents pay in taxes.

When those 70 homes and one business were demolished to make way for the middle school, $100,000 in taxes flew out the window. The ground has been vacant for six years so that amount totals $600,000 so far and who knows how much longer it will remain that way.

Bobby Chew and Booper Eller said...

Are we getting Band Jackets or not?!

HsWkr said in reply to CNBNewsnet...

Mr Cleary
It would be interesting to know how much we have invested in Chatham Square. How much we have lost in taxes and how much it would have cost to take the property by tax default.

You did a good analysis with respect to Hughes Ave. and Market St.

Thank you.

Dawn Watson said...

I set up my little dog training school about 2 blocks from the proposed site of the middle school. I'd love to see them do something--anything--to that land. Either start building or take the sign down, for now. We are a city of 2.8 square miles with over 11, 000 citizens. Surely there is an important use for a block of land like that. Perhaps twin townhomes, affordably priced could be an option and let our citizens bid on them??