The city’s school district is planning to sublease the Boris Kroll Mill Building it leases on State Street to the Philip’s Academy Charter School of Paterson, according to a proposal before the school board.
The charter school will pay the district $184,000 in rent for a 19,500 square feet facility at 47 State Street, the former home of Destiny, Great Falls, and Yes Academies. The sublease with the charter school will run from July 1st, 2016 through June 30th, 2017, according to the district.
“It’s a shocking betrayal of the board’s position and I’m utterly disgusted by it,” said longtime school board member Jonathan Hodges on Monday morning when asked about the sublease.
Hodges said the agreement was presented to the school board on Wednesday night, but action was postponed until further discussion. He said a discussion on the proposed agreement has been scheduled for next month.
The district moved all its programs from the building except for the Great Falls Academy which will be relocated to the St. Paul’s building on Wagaraw Boulevard in Prospect Park, said district spokeswoman Terry Corallo.
Corallo said the Prospect Park location is presently occupied by the Alternative Middle School which will end in June.
Hodges blamed the sublease agreement with the new charter school on the state. He said the district, which is run by the state, is behind the sublease agreement. He cited remarks governor Chris Christie made in support of charter schools to assert the state intends to do everything in its power to promote charter schools at the detriment of public schools.
It’s not clear as to the exact amount of money the district pays to lease the building; however school officials said the district is subleasing the building at a substantially discounted price. The district’s lease on the building expires on June 30th, 2017.
Philip’s Academy Charter School of Paterson, which operates a school in Newark, was granted permission to open in September of this year. The school will begin its first year with 45 kindergarten students before expanding to 180 by the fourth year, according to the state.
Hodges said the district is paying for the charter school’s opening. He said the opening of the charter compounds the district’s fiscal woes. “As we have a shortfall, this makes the shortfall worse,” he said. “Every year that charter school grows it further undermines our budget.”
The district will transfer $34 million to charter schools in the upcoming school year, according to budget documents.
“If we lose 50 kids that’s one child per a school in the district. We can’t shut down classrooms. We can’t shut down teachers. We have to absorb that cost. It increases the per pupil cost,” said Hodges. “In better financial climate we could absorb it, but in this financial climate it makes it very difficult.”
This year the district had a $45 million budget gap which forced severe program cuts and resulted in the elimination of 101 positions. The school system also ended up raising property taxes by 6.4-percent.
Hodges said had the charter failed to open the district could have kept the dollars that have to flow to the Philip’s Academy Charter School of Paterson.
The district is also temporarily giving up the former Don Bosco High School building on Union Avenue in the upcoming school year to the Paterson Arts and Science Charter School at the behest of the state which will potentially delay construction on a new building at the site.
Don Bosco students will be transported to the former Paterson Catholic High School building on 11th Avenue. The former high school building was home of the charter school until the state purchased the building for the district.
The plan had been while Don Bosco students attend school at the other side of the city, the New Jersey School Development Authority (SDA) would be constructing a new structure at the site.