Lanning Square residents 'just want a school'

As I reported Monday, Lanning Square residents are unlikely to get the new elementary school they have been promised for nearly a decade — at least anytime soon.

They are very frustrated with the situation, and some have teamed up to form the Friends of Lanning Square School. Others are circulating a survey and have been canvassing the neighborhood for opinions on what people want at this point.

“They just want a school, whatever comes first,” said neighborhood activist Sheila Davis, who, along with companions, went out Saturday and interviewed 175 people. They plan to go out again to collect more feedback.

“The majority felt as though the Board of Education has not taken to the community what is going on,” Davis said. “They are tired of it. They want something different.”

Different could be a “renaissance” school, which would be similar to charter school in that it would receive almost all of its funding (95 percent) from taxpayers, yet would be run by private companies and built by private developers. Renaissance schools would have to be approved by the Camden school board.

But Mongaliso Davis, a member of the Friends of Lanning Square School (and no relationship to Sheila Davis), said he and others want the state Schools Development Authority to build a traditional public school, as the agency promised in 2008. (for background, see STORY.)

He wants the Camden school board to sue the state over its failure to build the replacement for Lanning Square Elementary School.

Camden Board of Education attorney Lester Taylor said the board was “considering all of its options” in regards to Lanning Square.
Pressed on what those options are, he said that he could not get into detail because of client privileges but that he is looking at whether a lawsuit would be “procedurally appropriate.”

No timeline yet for when the board would decide its next move.

The Education Law Center, which advocates for poor, urban districts across the state, said that if Camden’s school board did not sue, it might consider a lawsuit itself.

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