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Two schools, not supermart slated for Heights lot


Bolstered by renewed state funding for building schools in poor, urban districts, the site of an old turf battle in the Heights is set to be transformed into two new schools.

The 2.2-acre plot of land at Laidlaw and Summit avenues is to be shared by a 22-room early childhood center for 324 tots and an elementary school for 469 students, kindergarten through grade 5.

The Jersey City Board of Education had been in a tug-of-war over the land with local residents, many of whom preferred having a new Stop & Shop supermarket built on the property. Stop & Shop's developer had purchased the land.

But store owners along Central Avenue contended that the Stop & Shop mega-store would kill off mom-and-pop businesses along the avenue.

The debate ended in February 2006, when the state's Schools Construction Corp. condemned and took ownership of the property at a cost of $6.86 million.

The new early childhood center is expected to cost $20.6 million to build, while the elementary school is pegged at $47.5 million, officials said.

Both schools, currently in the design phase, will be built by the state Schools Development Authority, the successor entity to the SCC, which was scrapped due to mismanagement and lax oversight.

Councilman Bill Gaughan said the new schools are sorely needed in the Heights because of overcrowding. "A new school is important, especially in an urban area that has a growing young population as you have in the Heights," Gaughan said.

Overall, the state is building five new schools in Hudson County. Also included in the new state funding is $42.4 million to convert the old Harrison High School into a middle school; $24.1 million to renovate the 100-year-old Thomas G. Connors elementary school in Hoboken; $47 million to replace Union City's Columbus School; and $51.3 million to replace the Harry L. Bain School in West New York.

© 2008 The Jersey Journal
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Note: This article was corrected for content