The Colt Street building adjacent to the city hall, which was set to welcome students of two city high schools, will not be ready for students on the first day of school next week.
“Unfortunately, there have been a few unexpected delays which will require us to postpone the opening for next week,” said Terry Corallo, school district spokeswoman. Inspections and wireless connections were cited as the cause of delay.
Located at 5 Colt Street the newly renovated building was expected to welcome 280 HARP Academy and 65 YES Academy students on September 3rd, 2015.
State-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans last Wednesday told school board members the district had a backup plan in case the building was not ready for students by the first week of school.
The contingency plan calls for HARP Academy students and staff to remain at their existing building on Main Street. And YES Academy staff and students to report to the Boris Kroll building located at 47 State Street, according to the district.
The district continued a month-to-month lease of the old Paterson Mall where HARP Academy is housed.
“My understanding is there’s a delay because the city hasn’t been able to inspect it,” said Jonathan Hodges, school board president. He suspected the delay may have been the result of the city’s Community Improvement division which city officials have said is understaffed and developers have said has been delaying permits and inspections.
On Tuesday evening frustrated and unhappy developers staged a protest at the city council meeting showcasing their plight as inspection and permit delays have hindered and halted construction at various city locations.
The Colt Street building has received unfavorable attention earlier in the month for having a complicated building evacuation plan in which students must go through fire escapes, cross over a building, before landing in a court yard in case of an emergency.
Planning board members, who were advised their review was a mere formality, approved the school in a 4-3 vote. The opposing members included Nelly Celi, a former school board candidate, who raised student safety concerns after being informed of the evacuation plan.
Hodges said teachers and their union have expressed similar concerns about the seven-storey building.
“They were gravely concerned about the fire escapes,” said Hodges last Wednesday. He said the fire escape is located on the second floor which means the building’s population from upper floors has to get to that floor to exit the structure in case of an emergency.
Short on classroom space and suffering from over crowding and poor facilities the district is leasing the building for $495,000.
Evans on last Wednesday said the district has called in an expert to look at the building to see if other exits routes are possible. He also reassured school board members that students would not be entering the building until all inspections are cleared.
District officials are hoping the building will obtain the requisite inspections and be prepared for students in a month or so.