TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Democrat Barbara Buono toured a Trenton high school that Gov. Chris Christie had refused to visit, describing the conditions inside the building Thursday as so poor the school should be closed immediately for emergency repairs.
Buono said the 80-year-old building's leaky roof, crumbling ceilings and mold-infested walls are a health hazard and learning impediment for the 1,900 mostly minority teenagers who attend Trenton Central High School. She said the students should be temporarily schooled elsewhere while the building is made safe.
"I've been in prisons that look better than this," she said after a half-hour tour set up by student leaders. Christie declined a similar invitation.
Buono also blasted Christie, her opponent in the Nov. 5 governor's race, for failing to fix the capital city's only public high school. The governor said the Schools Development Authority under his administration has jurisdiction but the SDA said emergency repairs are the school district's responsibility.
Buono characterizing the school's state of disrepair as "a reflection of Chris Christie's abysmal leadership."
"The children are suffering because it's not in (Christie's) political self-interest (to fix the school)," Buono said. "If my administration had held up funding for four years to fix this school and others like it, I'd be embarrassed that I hadn't even come one time for a visit."
Buono was joined by school officials, teachers union leaders and state lawmakers who represent the district.
The school district, which Assemblyman Reed Gusciora said is spending $2.6 million on emergency repairs, is suing the state.
The SDA has designated up to $27 million for repairs, starting with the roof, officials said, but repairs aren't scheduled to start until next year and won't be completed until 2015.
Two phone messages to the SDA were not returned Thursday afternoon.
One of the chants heard at a rally before the tour was "release the money," meaning without further delay. Another chant led by students and teachers was "we deserve better."
Former school superintendent Raymond Broach said the school's many deficiencies were documented and photographed and air quality tests completed two years ago and submitted to SDA.
He said there's been no forward movement since.