A rally to protest the ongoing delay by the NJ Schools Construction Corporation (SCC) in constructing a new high school drew over 400 Phillipsburg residents on Saturday, April 21st. At the rally, Phillipsburg students, educators and community leaders expressed their outrage and frustration over the deplorable conditions at the existing high school, now commonly referred to as a “trailer park.”
The high school now serves over 1,710 students, and is so overcrowded that the district conducts classes in 31 trailers. Plans for a new high school were approved by the Department of Education several years ago, and land for the new school was then acquired, cleared and made ready for construction. SCC suddenly halted further work on the project in 2005 when the agency announced it was quickly running out of funds.
Students and teachers have been forced to endure crowded classes and hallways, security problems and other issues that directly effect the learning environment. Although an urban or “Abbott” district, Phillipsburg High receives students from surrounding communities experiencing new development. As a result, enrollment is increasing.
The failure of the Legislature to act on a request by SCC for $3.25 billion in new construction funds has left Abbott communities like Phillipsburg with no idea when they will be able to start construction and provide adequate school facilities to their students.
Education Law Center (ELC), on behalf of students in Phillipsburg and other Abbott districts, has filed a motion with the NJ Supreme Court asking for the Court to set a June 30th deadline for the Legislature to approve new the construction funds. This funding would keep current projects moving; allow stalled projects like the new Phillipsburg High school to resume; and set aside funds for emergency health and safety repairs.
“The conditions Phillipsburg faculty and students must endure are shameful,” said David G. Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and Abbott Counsel. “While we’re pressing our case to the Supreme Court, the Legislature should approve more funding now so Phillipsburg students, and students in countless other communities, will not have to wait for safe and educationally adequate schools.”
Prepared: April 25, 2007
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications