More than 1,200 city students will begin first day of classes at the much anticipated two new school buildings – the new School 16 and Hani Awadallah School, according to the Paterson Public Schools.
The Hani Awadallah School, located in the corner of Hazel and Marshall Streets, will have 631 students in k-8 grades and 45 certified staff members, said district spokeswoman Terry Corallo. She said the new School 16 located at 11 22nd Avenue will have 575 students in pre-k-8 grades with 53 certified staff members.
Both schools will open for staff members on September 1st, 2016 for staff and the 6th for students, according to the district.
School 16 is a three-story, 109,500 square-foot building that is designed to educate 700 students, according to the New Jersey School Development Authority (SDA). The building includes 22 general use, 3 kindergarten, 4 pre-kindergarten classrooms, according to the state.
The building also has specialized instruction classrooms and labs. It also includes a media center, a cafetorium, a gymnasium, and administrative and support facilities.
The Hani Awadallah School, at 515 Marshall Street, is nearly 109,000 square-foot and designed to educate 650 students. This facility includes 23 general use, 4 kindergarten, labs, and specialized instruction classrooms. It also includes a media center, a gym, a cafetorium, and a community room, according to the state.
There’s also a pedestrian bridge constructed over the NJ Transit railroad to provide students safe and easy access to the school.
School 16 cost $62.3 million to build while Hani Awadallah School cost $55.2 million, according to state estimates.
The Awadallah School did not have an auspicious start. The state began the school project, but halted it after laying the foundation for the school. It restarted the plan and completed site preparation in October of 2012.
Education advocates protested construction delays in September 2013. Advocates marked the tenth anniversary of the initial construction at the corner of Hazel and Marshall Streets.
“I was protesting the fact they were not doing anything,” said Linda Reid, president of the Parent Education Organizing Council (PEOC), who was one of the protesters that day. She and her group repeatedly took trips to Trenton to lobby the SDA to build the much needed schools in the overcrowded district.
Charles McKenna, executive director of the SDA, credited Reid’s group for their lobbying efforts in obtaining the new schools, when he visited the city in 2014 for a groundbreaking ceremony.
“We put enormous pressure on them month after month and that’s what got them to not dismiss us,” said school board member Jonathan Hodges, who also traveled to Trenton with Reid’s group to lobby for the new schools.
“Finally, it’s done. We went to Trenton for two years. We went to their board meetings and advocated strongly for this to happen,” said Reid on Wednesday morning. “I’m like in seventh heaven right now.”
Both schools have been granted temporary certificate occupancy. There are some items that remain to be completed, but will not impact the start of school at either of the buildings, according to the district.
The district is hosting opening ceremonies for School 16 and the Awadallah School in late September.
“The sacrifice was worth it,” said Reid.
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This report was last updated on August 31st, 2016 at 3 p.m.