The children of Jefferson Elementary in Trenton started their first day of school in a building warranting health risks. Parents walked into a slum, finding the conditions of the building to be dangerous to their children. Rumors of moldy ceilings, unclean water, and unsafe walls were among these dangers.
As stated by Cecilla Ramos in an interview conducted by Trentonian reporter L.A. Parker, “There’s mold, rust, no furniture, water leaking out of the ceiling. Should I go on? It’s just amazing.” These health hazards forced parents to remove their children from school until health codes were up to par.
In a rush to meet school deadlines, Jefferson Elementary opened doors before meeting building standards. Parents claimed that bathrooms were disorderly with filthy toilets. Parents also claimed that some of the water faucets dispensed unclean, brown-colored water.
In the same interview by L.A. Parker, Trenton Education Association Grievance representative Janice Williams stated that, “We’ve got kids throwing up over here. Some of them have asthma and they are finding it pretty hard to breathe with the smell in this building.”
So what pushed Jefferson Elementary School to reopen its doors after being closed for more than a year? Only roughly three weeks prior in mid-August state officials closed down it’s third charter school, Trenton Community Charter School, due to the “school’s failure to boost student achievement levels” as reported by Erin Duffy of The Times Newspaper.
The abrupt close left four hundred and fifty students without education, forcing Jefferson Elementary School to restore their halls to a safe and welcoming learning environment whilst struggling to meet opening deadlines set by the Department of Education.
In a video produced by The Times film producer Martin Griff, Trenton School Board President Reverend Toby Sanders announced a public apology to parents and asked them to have more understanding of the issues Jefferson Elementary faced in reopening the school under such challenging conditions.
Sanders says, “The state requires that we have a certain number of days in class and so there was a pressure between what the laws are and what the realities are.”
Despite the conditions of the building, Superintendent Raymond Broach confirmed that the school did pass health inspections prior to opening on September 8.
Broach says, “There were several inspections done before school opened and they all came to the same conclusions that the school presented no threat into the health, safety, and well-being of the students or the professional staff.”
The school closed on September 9 and reopened on September 12. According to Broach, the school board utilized this time to work on repairing some of the main concerns of the building.
Broach says, “It did give us an opportunity to continue to address the ongoing concerns regarding the building and its physical issues. We repainted more, did some more work on the roofs, so it did give us another window of opportunity to do some things.”
Jefferson Elementary School has since been open and teaching students in safe environmental conditions according to Broach. “I think it’s right on par with all the other schools that are in session. Like all buildings, we continue to maintain the building on a daily basis just like we would all of our school buildings and that there is no concern for health safety or well-being.”