(CAMDEN, January 9, 2008) - Camden School District and New Jersey Schools Development Authority officials joined together today to celebrate the ribbon-cutting for the city's new Early Childhood Development Center.
The new ECDC will provide a safe, modern learning environment for 444 preschool and kindergarten children, easing overcrowding in the district. Area leaders were on hand for the formal ceremony to mark the school's opening. The school opened to students on Monday, January 5.
"I am pleased that this new school will benefit the children of Camden by giving them a safe, new building in which to learn and thrive and achieve their potential," Governor Jon S. Corzine said. "With each completed school, the city takes another important stride to providing a brighter future for its residents."
The 81,800-square-foot school consists of 37 classrooms for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students ages 3 through 5. The facility will accommodate a curriculum for students with disabilities.
The ECDC has classrooms for music, art instruction, and 10 additional small group instruction spaces for specialized programs. It also includes a cafeteria with a kitchen, a gymnasium/multi-purpose room for 150 students, a media center and occupational/ physical therapy space.
"The Camden School District has looked forward to this day for a very long time," said Superintendent B. LeFra Young. "Opening the Early Childhood Development Center helps us to provide a 21st century education to a new generation of children who will become the leaders of our city. This is a part of a new beginning for Camden and its community, parents and our children that will serve their educational needs for many years to come."
ECDC is the second school to open in Camden under the state's school construction program. The Catto Elementary School, a demonstration project built in collaboration with city officials and the Boys and Girls Club of New Jersey, opened in September 2007 to help revitalize the community.
"We have much work to do, but this is a great step toward a brighter future for Camden's children," said Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. (D-Camden). "Not only will it provide a safe and modern learning environment for children at a crucial time in their development, but it will help ease overcrowding elsewhere in the district and accommodate students with disabilities to help ensure they get an equal chance. We can do no less but to give these children the quality education they deserve, and that's what we're doing here."
Camden has two active projects scheduled to open this September - H.B. Wilson Elementary School and Dudley Elementary School. Also, a construction contract was awarded last month for the new Morgan Village Middle School, with work scheduled to begin later this month. A September 2010 opening is scheduled.
The SDA has three additional Camden schools in its current capital plan: Camden High School, Lanning Square Elementary School and Pyne Poynt Middle School. Altogether, the SDA has spent or committed more than $430 million for projects in the city.
"On behalf of the SDA, we are pleased to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Camden officials on this new facility," said SDA CEO Kris Kolluri. "Governor Corzine has made school construction a key focus of efforts to stimulate the economy. The construction of schools in cities such as Camden will not only create jobs in the short term but improve our educational programs for years to come."
"High-quality educational facilities are absolutely central to the academic success of students learning within," said State Senator Dana Redd (D-Camden and Gloucester). "The Schools Development Authority has built schools and educational centers which incorporate state-of-the-art learning technologies and pristine settings to give students a chance to excel. On behalf of the City of Camden, I'd like to thank the SDA for all it has done for our community, and I look forward to continued partnership to inspire students to achieve their maximum potential throughout the State of New Jersey."
"Today is a step in the right direction toward making Camden a better place," said Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden). "This facility will give the city's children what they've long deserved - a chance for a quality education and the strong and effective start considered so vital for young children to succeed. They deserve nothing less."
The project was designed by The Hillier Group of Princeton. The Henderson Group of Raritan was the general contractor. Don Todd Associates of Cherry Hill was the project management firm.
Overall the SDA has completed 587 projects: 46 new schools; 41 extensive additions, renovations and/or rehabilitations; three demonstration projects and nearly 400 other projects.