The NJ Schools Development Authority (SDA) recently stated that SDA “is not authorized to pay for any emergency repairs” to Trenton Central High School (TCHS). The SDA also stated that it’s up to the Trenton school district to pay to repair the building.
In response, Education Law Center (ELC) released the following statement from David Sciarra, Executive Director:
The SDA’s assertion that the State, through the SDA, has no responsibility to repair emergent conditions at TCHS is not only irresponsible, but patently false. The law is crystal clear. The SDA, along with the NJ Department of Education, is responsible for undertaking and completing all repairs to protect the health and safety of students in SDA districts, such as Trenton, as quickly as possible, whether projects are called emergent, emergency or capital maintenance. In addition, the SDA, and not the district, is responsible to pay for those repairs.
The SDA’s attempt to blame the Trenton district for the lack of action at TCHS is a desperate public relations stunt to deflect attention from the agency’s continuing failure to address the deplorable and hazardous conditions at the school. The record shows that SDA did a complete assessment of the building in February 2012, and also was well aware of a September 2011 report documenting asbestos throughout the school. Over a year and half has gone by, and the SDA has yet to bring in even a single contractor to fix the leaking roof, falling ceiling tiles, broken windows, unusable bathrooms, or any of the tens of health and safety conditions documented in the SDA’s own 2012 assessment report and cited for abatement by the Trenton building code officials.
And the SDA recently made it clear that it will continue its pattern of neglect of Trenton school children. According to a document signed by SDA CEO Marc Larkins, dated June 25, 2013, the agency won’t even consider starting repair work on the exterior of the building until August 2014, and on the interior of the building until June 2015. Mr. Larkins estimates that the interior repairs will not be completed until early in 2018, six years after the agency identified the need for emergent repairs.
Even worse, the SDA knows full well that, by law, the Trenton district, like other SDA districts, cannot include capital repair and maintenance funds in its budget, and that all funds for this purpose must come from the State. The SDA, by refusing to repair TCHS, has left the district with no alternative but to divert funds from its education budget to pay for repairs the SDA refuses to do. The SDA’s inaction not only compels students to attend a school with dangerous conditions, but is reducing the funding available to support their education.
Policy and Outreach Director
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Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications