PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Camden City School District is moving forward with plans to close two schools and those opposed to the idea took their fight to Trenton on Wednesday. Veterans Memorial Family School is one of two Camden public schools the district plans to close at the end of the year due to a $27 million deficit.
On Wednesday, some students, parents and teachers brought the fight to keep it open to state officials.
“[I feel] sad because I’ve been there for a while and I know my friends for as long as I’ve been there and I don’t want to leave them or think about leaving them,” said Liliany Velez, a sixth grader at Veterans Memorial School.
Students and parents from Camden’s Veterans Memorial Family School joined teachers and community organizers for a rally outside of the state’s Department of Education. Their message was, “make our concerns your priority.”
“Taking children from one area and putting them in another area could cause a lot of damage in our city and, commissioner, I would hope that you take a look at that,” Gary Frazer, a Save Camden public organizer, said.
“Well, we will definitely look. I already had some conversations with the organizers. We will be meeting to hear all sides to make sure that we make an informed decision,” New Jersey Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said.
Just moments before the protests began, acting Camden Superintendent Katrina McCombs received approval for a permanent appointment in the state-controlled district.
She says as a Camden native being placed in charge in the midst of proposed school closings and as many as 200 layoffs, her local ties bring benefits and difficulties.
“There may be an expectation that I’ll make a certain decision because I’m ‘from around the way,’ so to speak,” McCombs said. “What is at the forefront of every decision that I make, I try to make with integrity. Make the decision to keep the students at the forefront and that may mean that it will be unpopular so it’s very challenging.”
While all budget decisions are not final at this point, closing Veterans and Bonsall Schools, while repurposing the Cream Schools, is the plan right now.