The NJ Department of Education (DOE) and Schools Development Authority (SDA) have responded to a demand by Education Law Center (ELC) to commence a new round of funding for emergent projects in New Jersey urban school buildings.
The thirty-one (31) urban districts, classified as “SDA districts” under the State school construction program, were notified by the DOE and SDA on July 26 of the “2016 Potential Emergent Projects” (PEP) program, described as a “statewide effort” to “identify and evaluate potential emergent projects” eligible for funding under the program.
An emergent project is a “capital project” necessary to address a building condition that causes an imminent peril to the health and safety of students and staff and that must be alleviated on an expedited basis. Examples of emergent projects include roof leaks, broken fire alarms, boiler replacements, and crumbling building facades.
The DOE and SDA announcement follows a demand by ELC, on behalf of SDA district students, that the agencies launch a new PEP program to give SDA districts the opportunity to secure funding to remediate elevated lead levels in water supply systems in school buildings. Newark, for example, has identified 31 schools with elevated levels of lead in the drinking water. In response, the district shut off water fountains and sinks in the affected buildings, and is providing bottled water for students and staff.
On June 30, the DOE issued rules requiring all districts to conduct lead testing of water in all buildings within the next year. The PEP program provides the urban SDA districts with the opportunity to obtain state funding to install filtration systems, remove corrosive piping, or undertake other measures to ensure a safe supply of water for drinking, food preparation, sanitation and other purposes.
The SDA districts are covered by a 1998 NJ Supreme Court order requiring the State to fully fund all capital projects and improvements – including new schools and additions – to ensure SDA district school buildings are safe, not overcrowded and educationally adequate. ELC serves as counsel to the nearly 300,000 students enrolled in SDA district schools.
ELC is urging administrators in SDA districts to submit requests for funding for projects to remediate all emergent conditions in their buildings. Requests must be submitted by August 19. ELC will be closely monitoring implementation of the PEP program.
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications