Senator Shirley Turner and Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora and Bonnie Watson Coleman (all D-Mercer/Hunterdon) on Tuesday called on incoming School Development Authority (SDA) Chief Charles McKenna to come tour Trenton Central High School (TCHS) to see, firsthand, the crumbling infrastructure which continues to put the safety of students in jeopardy and compromise the learning environment.
McKenna, currently chief counsel to the governor, will replace Marc Larkins as chief of the SDA. The 15th district lawmakers hope that the leadership change will bring needed attention and adequate focus to the atrocious structural conditions under which TCHS students are expected to learn.
“No student should have to endure the conditions that students at Trenton Central High face day in and day out,” said Turner. “The perpetual neglect that has led to this deteriorating state is shameful. It’s my hope that the incoming SDA chief will be far more sympathetic to their plight and receptive to our pleas for action. A simple tour can be a real eye-opener. Each day delayed is another day that we compromise student safety and their overall chances for long-term success.”
“The deplorable conditions at Trenton Central have been ignored for too long. This is not an abandoned building we are talking about, but an active place of learning for children,” said Gusciora. “Not only are the conditions unsafe, but they affect the overall morale at the school and interfere with learning. I’m asking that Mr. McKenna visit the school to see for himself the substandard conditions that we have been complaining about for so long, and finally make the high school a priority.”
“It takes just a few hours for anyone who has toured the school to appreciate the magnitude of the structural problems at Trenton High. Imagine what it must be like for students and staff members who are expected to learn and work under these conditions every day,” said Watson Coleman. “This is a dangerous situation. Since the governor has not found the time to visit the high school, which is only minutes away from the state house, I hope for the sake of these students, Mr. McKenna will.”
Turner, Gusciora, Watson Coleman have been fighting for nearly 10 years for state funding to replace the antiquated school. Early last year they were given hope when the SDA announced that Trenton was slated for funding to build an entirely new high school. Since that time the decision has been scaled back to provide funding just for major renovations and later only funding to cover patchwork repairs.
The lawmakers and other state representatives have toured the high school to check on conditions and relay concerns to state officials. Among the many conditions encountered were fallen plaster from portions of the ceiling in culinary classrooms and large portions of the roof in utter disrepair; a basement cafeteria lacking a ventilation system because installation of proper duct work would expose asbestos; damp carpets; the presence of mold; and a wall alarmingly referred to as the “waterfall wall” when it rains due to pervasive leaks, just to mention a few.