Final class from Camden High's 101-year-old building graduates

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End of an era at Camden High School. Walter Perez reports during Action News at 6 p.m. on June 20, 2017. (WPVI)

The final graduating class from the 101-year-old building known as the Castle on the Hill in Camden took their diplomas Tuesday.

The old Camden High School building is nothing short of iconic. But after more than a century, it's crumbling.

So Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard says the plan is to replace it with a $133 million state-of-the-art facility in the very same location.

"The current facility has been in disrepair for far too long and our kids deserve this. So we're really excited about it," Rouhanifard said.

Not everyone in Camden shares in that excitement though.

Moneke Ragsdale leads a group called "Stop the Demolition of Camden High."

Her organization is working to get the Castle on the Hill added to the New Jersey or National Registers of Historic Places with the hope of at least preserving the structure's facade.

"We don't want to save the entire school, we just want to save the castle. We'd like for them to rebuild on the back because we have over 18 acres on Camden High," Ragsdale said.

But the superintendent says any attempt to salvage the building will send the overall price tag skyrocketing.

"To keep the tower, it would've have been cost prohibitive, and we just want a state-of-the-art facility for our kids. This is a reincarnation of Camden High; it's not that Camden High is going away, but that it's a new life for the building," Rouhanifard said.

We spoke with a few members of the Class of 2017 who say they understand the need for a new facility, but it's going to be tough watching them tear down The Castle.

"It's very sad when they tear it down because it's a very historical place," graduate Dalia Rivera said.

"It's kind of half and half for a guy like me, with the all the memories and everything that went on, the smiles, the laughter, the hard work," graduate Denzell Walker said.

Despite the efforts to stop it, at this point, all indications are that the demolition will begin this coming fall.

The new high school is expected to open in 2021. Until then, Camden High School students will attend class inside Cooper B. Hatch Middle School.
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