Camden closing schools citing continuing budget deficit

CAMDEN, N.J. (WPVI) -- Citing a continuing budget deficit each year, the Camden City School District says it will be closing several campuses next school year.

According to the Camden Education Association, the district is about $27 million in the hole.

"We know that is order to overcome continuous budget challenges each year, we must have an aggressive plan to align the number of schools we operate to the number of students we educate in the district," said Acting State Superintendent Katrina McCombs.

Thursday, parents and students protested the closing of Veterans Memorial Family School right outside the building.

"We're here, we're going to you know stand strong," said protester and father of a student Clayton Gonzalez.

For the 2019-2020 school year, the new configuration plans call for a new early childhood school at what is currently the RT Cream Family School in the Centerville neighborhood of the city.

Students who attend the school will be moved to either H.B Wilson School or Creative Arts School.

Veterans' students will move to either Henry H. Davis Family School or the Alfred Cramer College Preparatory Lab School.

District officials say the cost to repair Veterans alone would be about $14 million.

The teachers union says Bonsall Annex preschool will also close.

"The district manufactured this," said union president Keith Benson.

Benson says the public schools are being sacrificed to help with the enrollment of nearby privately run charter schools.

"This is like corporate ran charter schools that were forced upon us by lawmakers to specifically collapse our public school district," said Benson.

Benson says district wide there could be as many as 300 staff layoffs.

In her statement, the Acting State Superintendent adding even with state aid "it wouldn't be enough to solve the long-term enrollment and facilities issues our school face."

Benson says the union is getting ready to petition the State Board of Education for funding to keep the schools open.
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