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St. Peter's Buildings Will Once Again Serve as School For City Kids

Citing Growing Immigrant Population, BOE Scraps Plans For New Administrative Headquarters and Decides to Open a New School Instead
St. Peter's graduation
St. Peter's High School, and a neighboring Catholic elementary school of the same name, will live on as a public school.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Superintendent Richard Kaplan confirmed that the school district's growth has led to a change in plans, and the opening of an additional elementary school in September.

Because the district saw 686 more students enrolled in September 2014 than it had been planning for, Kaplan said administrators changed their plans for what do with a former Catholic school campus in the city's Fifth Ward.

The plans now call for an elementary school to be opened at the former site of St. Peter's Elementary and St. Peter's High School, on Somerset Street between Division and Hardenbergh Streets.

The Board of Education purchased the prime real estate for $7.4 million in 2013, hoping to create a new administrative headquarters, which would allow for the expansion of their adult school housed in the same building on Baldwin Street.

Located across from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the once-vibrant St. Peter's campus has sat unused for almost five years.

A board on the Somerset Street side of the high school building still advertises the 2o10 graduation.

The Fifth Ward neighborhood where the school will be located is the only ward in the city without a public elementary school.

Decades ago, the Washington School was one of the epicenters of the French Street neighborhood which has traditionally been home to a lot of immigrants.  Today, the property is a "Proton Therapy Center" owned by the hospital.

Instead, today's students in that neighborhood must walk well into the Sixth Ward to attend Lincoln Elementary School, the district's most outdated facility.

Built in 1910, Lincoln Elementary is not only the district's oldest school, but it's location is also peculiar from an urban planning perspective.

While it wasn't the case when the school opened more than a century ago, the building now finds itself surrounding by the sizable part of town where the least public school students live: the college-student-dominated Sixth Ward.

Kaplan said he wasn't sure what the name of the new school would be, but was sure that it would no longer be called St. Peter's.  He suggested that one of the two schools could be reffered to as the "Lincoln School Annex."

Kaplan said that the state gave the school district a waiver to allow students at Lincoln to take a paper-and-pencil version of the controversial PARCC test because the school's technology was so lacking.  But the waiver is only good for one year, he warned.

As a result, Kaplan said that the next superintendent may decide to make Lincoln Elementary School a school for just kindergarden through second grade.

Kaplan is set to leave office this summer and Board of Education is expected to officially name his replacement at their next meeting.