By Natasha Brown, Mark Abrams
CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Plans have been approved to demolish Camden High School and replace it with a new state-of-the-art facility. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie traveled to Camden to deliver the news.
Camden High school or as it’s known, “The Castle on the Hill,” has long stood as an iconic image in the community.
But a closer look inside the century old building exposed glaring deterioration — from exposed pipes and wiring to crumbling walls and obsolete conditions.
On Wednesday, the New Jersey Schools Development Authority voted to approve the construction of a new Camden High School in the same site — demolishing the old structure, replacing it with a 242,000 square foot state of the art facility, the future home to 1,200 students in grades 9 through 12.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie brought the news to a gathering in the Camden High School gym — news the community was waiting to hear.
“We are going to invest more than $130-million to rebuild and to provide thousands of students with a 21st century educational experience they deserve,” said the governor. “The new Camden High School campus will be home to state-of-the-art science labs, to a media center, to a brand new modern cafeteria, as well as gymnasium. And for those people who are thinking about becoming a lawyer, we’re going to have a mock trial room for you here, as well.”
But some in the community are not happy about it.
“We know that there are those who would rather see the current building stay,” said Camden Mayor Dana Reed, “but the reality is that it’s cost-prohibited and expensive to do just that.”
For Councilman Brian Coleman, a former graduate of Camden High, his nostalgia doesn’t outweigh the need for the new $133-million project.
“It’s good to see change coming. It’s good to see a new school coming,” Coleman said. “I think it’s owed to the students who are here and to the students who are coming.”
Still, there were vocal opponents who wanted renovation and the preservation of the historic facade.
“I came here today to try to save my beloved alumni, Camden High School,” said Vita Neal, a former graduate. “The face of that building is iconic, it’s historical.”
It’s still unclear where students will be housed during the construction phase.
Construction on the new school is set to begin in the fall of 2017 and the new Camden High School is set to open in the fall of 2021.