Almost two dozen students, teachers, and parents gathered at Wednesday evening’s school board meeting to protest delays that have hampered Harp Academy’s move from the old Paterson mall to a building on Colt Street.
The district in anticipation of the move packed up supplies and other materials from the school for storage. The school’s staff and students thought the move to the new building would happen sooner; however, when the delay stretched on for more than two weeks they banded together to protest at the school board.
“Now, we’re going into our third week of school and we still have no books, no lockers, the supplies are very minimal, and I can’t do my job,” said Lecia Williamson, a teacher. She said her blood pressure machine which she used to instruct students at the medical arts academy remains in storage unutilized to educate pupils.
“Without any books how will we learn?” said Nusrath Hussian, a senior at the academy. She spoke flanked by about half-dozen of her schoolmates.
Gregory Ray, a parent, said he visited the school after his daughter told him students had to stand up to eat lunch due to lack of tables. “They had to stand up during lunch because they didn’t have enough tables,” said Ray.
Ray visited the principal who did not have papers to write on at the office.
The district provided the school with laptops to use in place of books; however, with poor internet connection that does not appear to be working, said a teacher. He said at times the class would download a book and by the time it finishes only seven minutes remains in class. There’s also patchy connection at the school, said teachers.
Williamson said if the move will not happen anytime soon the district should at least return the supplies that are in storage so that teachers can teach and students can receive instructions. At present several teachers said they were utilizing Youtube videos to instruct their students.
Steve Morlino, the district’s facilities director, said the building may not be prepared until the end of October. He said the elevator must be installed which will arrive from California on October 5th, 2015. And take a week to install. There’s also the internet connection, various inspections of the building, and additional fire escape work.
The school is anticipated for student occupancy by October 30th, 2015, said Morlino.
“If the school is not ready in a month or two our kids are going to be deprived of an education,” said Ray. “And we just don’t know what to do.”
State-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans seeing the anger and frustration coming from the teachers, parents, and student said the district will unload the supplies that it has had in storage for the past months.
In fact, there have been reports that after emptying out the old Paterson mall on Main Street, the district in the last week of school had to haul some back in for first day of school. Parents and teachers criticized the district for poor planning.
The district is leasing the old Paterson mall on a monthly basis. It has a $500,000 lease with the Colt Street building.
Some parents, students, and teachers also raised concerns about Yes Academy which will be located at that building. Some Yes Academy students may have had run-ins with the law.
“My mother and some of my friends’ parents are uncomfortable having their children attend a school where students are over-aged and performed public crimes,” said Hussian.
“Some of those students are 19, 20 years old, mixing those two schools I feel is a bad idea,” said Ray.
The district has yet to state whether it intends to separate the two schools.
“Either we’re going to refurnish the mall that they are in or Colt Street will magically open in the next 2 to 3 days. I doubt the latter,” said Evans. He said the academy will also be provided with the needed furniture.
District officials also indicated the school supplies in storage will be brought back and unpacked for use.
“I’m glad to hear that,” said Williamson at Evans’ promise.