A new public elementary school, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health network, will be opening tomorrow in the city of New Brunswick.
RWJBarnabas' involvement in this project began three years ago when it sought to build a new cancer institute near Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.
The land the hospital wanted to build on was the current location of the Lincoln Annex, an elementary school in the city. In response to the hospital's plans, parents of Lincoln Annex students, local activists and other New Brunswick residents organized multiple protests and demonstrations.
Ultimately, the hospital's leadership came to a land-swap agreement with the city of New Brunswick, which involved the former purchasing the area occupied by the Lincoln Annex and constructing a new school at another location for $59.5 million. Of this sum, $55 million was spent on constructing the new school.
For the duration of the new school's construction, Lincoln Annex's students were expected to attend lessons in a converted warehouse. The prospect of teaching children in a building that was formerly a warehouse, alongside concerns regarding the power corporations can hold over local governments, were sources of opposition to this project, according to the article.
Many complaints against the construction of the school were made during a 2020 New Brunswick Board of Education meeting, according to an article from NJ Advance Media. Lilia Fernández, an associate professor of Latino and Caribbean Studies, was one of the attendees to issue a public critique.
"Rich and powerful people are bullying a little school board and humble working families so that they can get their way and fulfill their dreams of expansion, and (the New Brunswick Board of Education) is seemingly letting it happen," Fernández said.
The new Blanquita B. Valenti Community School, named in honor of the late public official, will serve students from fourth to eighth grade. It will feature amenities such as an art room with a pottery kiln, a library, a gymnasium, a makerspace and scientific laboratories for biology, chemistry and hydroponics studies.
"It would have definitely been difficult for New Brunswick, New Brunswick Public Schools to possibly build a new school of this magnitude," said Aubrey Johnson, the superintendent. "The land agreement, the donation of the land, has been very beneficial to the district."