PATERSON (PIX11) — From roaches to mold, and HVAC filters not changed in years, the teacher’s union in Paterson says their staff walked into a mess on day one of returning to the classroom on Tuesday.
Photos and videos widely shared on social media paint a grim picture of the state of several public school buildings throughout the city.
Eastside High School, according to Paterson Education Association President John McEntee, is in the worst condition.
“We had found dozens of classrooms where the windows didn’t even open,” he told PIX11 News.
The images were shared by the union online after it says it made every possible attempt to work with the district on resolving the problems, following an uphill battle to conduct their own inspections ahead of its staff returning.
“They just said absolutely not,” McEntee explained. “We now know the reason — it was that they were embarrassed to see what we were going to uncover.”
Paterson Public Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer, who appeared with Mayor Andre Sayegh Wednesday at an event about bringing more green spaces to city schools, told PIX11 that union leadership never brought their concerns to the district. She suggested they instead opted to launch a smear campaign on social media.
“When you don’t tell us where the issues are we cannot address them,” she said. “So instead of going on social media, pick up the phone, send us an email.”
Shafter said the first time she saw the images and learned about the conditions was when it all appeared on social media. It’s a claim McEntee is pushing back on.
“You are the superintendent of schools – how do you not know that this is going on in your district?” he said.
The Paterson School District has spent nearly $20 million on getting schools ready to reopen, installing what it says are several layers of protection for students and staff.
Administrators even touted a 92% attendance rate among eager staff on the first day back.
“We are not chasing social media,” Shafer said Wednesdsay. “Tell us where it is and we will address it.”
The PEA says it’s moving forward with compiling a full detailed report about its findings which will be presented to the school district, mayor and city council to resolve the issues ahead of the upcoming school year.