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Development News

Camden High School gets $50 million boost

"Camden High School has been a project that has been talked about for years," says New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) spokesperson Kristen MacLean. In December, a $50 million commitment from the state towards renovations for the site marked an exciting step forward after several tumultuous years.
The SDA has invested over $260 million in Camden projects to date (including five news schools). A 2008 capital plan that included Camden High got tabled when the auditor of New Jersey determined that it wasn’t in compliance with state statutes, and Governor Christie, then newly in office, suspended the plan until it could be corrected.

“We really sort of scrapped everything at the SDA [and] started looking at the projects for their needs and making a system to prioritize those needs that was very much in line with the statutes,” says MacLean of the organization’s response.
By 2011, that included a list of the state’s highest priority school projects, numbering about 150. SDA then developed a new capital plan to address the top ten most urgent jobs on that list, and Camden High School was one of them.

In June 2013, the School District was taken over by the state, and MacLean says the new superintendent brought "a whole new way of thinking about this project as well." 

According to a December 2014 statement from Governor Christie’s office, an Interagency Working Group -- made up of members from the SDA, the New Jersey Department of Education and Camden School District -- worked on defining the best way forward for Camden High. Camden City School District spokesperson Brendan Lowe confirms that while its graduation numbers have seen small increases in recent years, Camden City High, which has about 800 students, still has a graduation rate of about 50 percent.
“We need to improve the performance of the school in general and certainly the physical building, the quality of the facility, plays a role in school culture"” explains Lowe.
Would it need an entirely new building?
No, the Working Group concluded.

"There’s a great attachment to the school in the community and the building has pretty good bones," insists MacLean. So the new dollars will go toward an addition/renovation project, as well as improved programming.  
Lowe says more money from the state of New Jersey -- the exact amount depends on the design -- will make construction possible. The state expects to issue a call for design services early this year.
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Kristen MacLean, The New Jersey Schools Development Authority; Brendan Lowe, Camden City School District. 

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