PATERSON, N.J. — The battle over school buildings in Paterson continues after complaints about health and safety conditions from the teachers union went viral just as students and staff headed back to classrooms for the first time in more than a year.
Mayor Andre Sayegh joined the PIX11 Morning News on Monday to discuss the controversy and what’s being done to fix the issues raised by the teachers union.
From roaches to mold, and HVAC filters not changed in years, photos and videos widely shared on social media last week painted a grim picture of the state of several public school buildings throughout the city.
Sayegh blamed nearly a decade of underfunding for the poor building conditions that were highlighted by the teachers union.
While the district did receive federal funding through the CARES Act to assist in reopening classrooms, Sayegh said that money was earmarked for Google Chromebooks, Promethean interactive boards and to cover expenses related to COVID-19 safety mandates.
“It was for a whole variety of items to help facilitate the transition back,” he said. “But we continue to issue a glaring call to Trenton to make sure that we get more money to fix our schools, and build, quite frankly, new schools. We have some buildings that are 100 years old.”
After more than a year of students learning remotely, Sayegh said his main concern is an uptick in gun violence.
“And we’re seeing that our shooters are much younger,” he said. “A 15-year-old, about three weeks ago, was arrested for having a semi-automatic weapon near a school where children were congregating for an activity. Lord knows what could have happened if we weren’t able to swiftly arrest that 15-year-old.”
Sayegh said he’s spoken to the school district superintendent, who he said was willing to work with the teachers union to outline where all of the issues are in school buildings and create a plan to fix them.
PIX11’s Andrew Ramos contributed to this report.