The Paterson Arts and Science Charter School is opening next month at the former Don Bosco High School building on Union Avenue even though the city’s planning board rejected the charter’s application to temporarily move into the decrepit building two months ago citing safety concerns.
“Schools are considered by definition of the Municipal Land Use Law to be inherently beneficial uses, which are defined as one that is ‘universally considered of value to the community’ in that by its very nature, it ‘fundamentally serves the public good and promotes the general welfare,’” said planning director Michael Deutsch in a statement when asked how the charter school is able to move into a building despite the planning board’s rejection in June.
Deutsch said he brought the application to the planning board in the interest of full disclosure for the neighborhood and to give planning board members an opportunity to make recommendations to the applicant.
Planning board members voted 3-3 to reject the application. Deutsch said a tie vote is a denial. He said the denial leaves the parents and students of the Paterson Arts and Science Charter School without a building.
The planning director said the denial also raised the question whether commissioners “over reached in the denial of this application by the inclusion of matters that were either beyond the scope of the Board, or were under the jurisdiction and purview of other local, county or state authorities.”
Planning board members cited issues with the building including leaky roof and traffic problem that would result from large number of buses to deny the application. The school will house 540 students, according to state records.
Deutsch said he forwarded the application to the city’s Community Improvement Division to allow the charter school apply for various permits to make necessary changes to allow students to occupy the building next month.
In 2014-15 school year, Don Bosco Middle School had 592 students, according to the state. This year, those students are being bused to the old Paterson Catholic High School building on 11th Avenue.
The charter school was renting space at the old high school building until the New Jersey School Development Authority (SDA) purchased the building for the Paterson Public Schools. However, the state is allowing the charter to use the Don Bosco building until it finds a permanent location.
School board members fear the state’s move to allow the charter to use the building will only delay the construction of a new school building at the site. It’s not exactly clear for the duration of time the charter will remain at the building.
Staff of the charter school have said administrators told them the school will remain at the building for the entire school year – September to June – while the school told the planning board it plans to occupy the building for a few months. School district officials said the school will be at the building for a few months.
Nihat Guvercin, the head of the charter network that includes the Paterson Arts and Science Charter School, did not respond to repeated calls for comments for this story.
Guvercin has had difficulty holding down a building for his K-8 school. He was booted out of the former Temple Emanuel building on East 39th Street when residents protested traffic congestion the school created in their neighborhood.
The nomadic charter school may soon have a permanent home across the street from International High School. Construction is proceeding at 225 Grand Street which will be the new home of the charter school, said Deutsch.