PATERSON – City education officials are asking the state to build a new high school on the land where Paterson Catholic High School had operated for decades.
Officials in Trenton and at the Paterson Board of Education emphasized that the plans are in their very early stages and that it’s not clear when the New Jersey Schools Development Authority would have the funding for such a project.
“The Schools Development Authority has been made aware of our interest in constructing a new school building on what was the Paterson Catholic High School site,” said Paterson district spokesman Paul Brubaker. “The SDA goes to its board in August. At that point, we will have a very preliminary indication of the SDA’s funding allocation and whether a new school building being built on the property is economically feasible. “
The state agency acknowledged its preliminary talks with Paterson education officials.
“The SDA has engaged in planning discussions with the School District to further define what type of project may advance in the event that additional funding becomes available for the SDA,” said state spokeswoman Edythe Maier.
Paterson is one of 31 low-income districts in the state whose new school construction projects are handled by the SDA. The state agency bought the Paterson Catholic property for 30 million in 2015. City education officials have been using the building for the past six years – first as a middle school and now for a health sciences high school and a separate special needs program.
Neil Mapp, the administrator in charge of Paterson’s school facilities, told the school board during a meeting earlier this month that the original discussion focused on putting an addition onto the Paterson Catholic building, which he said has capacity for 800 students. But Mapp said officials determined that building an addition would be too “disruptive,” and instead are looking at an entirely new building.
The cost and size of the proposed new building have not yet been determined, officials said.
“It is important to note that a project scope has not yet been finalized and would be subject to advancement and approval by the SDA’s Board of Directors,” Maier said.
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At present, part of the Paterson Catholic building remains unused, officials said. But in September, the district plans to relocate two of its academies – STEM from the John F. Kennedy High School complex and the School of Information and Technology from the Eastside high campus – to the Paterson Catholic building, said board member Oshin Castillo.
Eventually, Castillo said, the district also wants to move Garret Morgan Academy to the Paterson Catholic building.
“This is a very big priority,” Castillo said when asked about the importance of getting a new building at the Paterson Catholic site. “We’re overcrowded.”
Last year, the school board had considered borrowing money to address the chronic flooding problems at the playing fields at the Paterson Catholic building. But officials have scrapped that plan.
Mapp said the goal is to construct the new building on those fields and then create new fields on the land where the current structure sits.
Paterson school board member Vince Arrington noted that the district has many schools that are more than 100 years old.
“Any opportunity for a new school would be great for us,” he said.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: [email protected]