The New Jersey Schools Development Authority is to vote Wednesday on a proposal to demolish Camden High School and replace it with a new building - a project that would cost an estimated $133 million.
If the plan is approved at the SDA's regular meeting in Trenton, the state will oversee a razing of the building known as the "Castle on the Hill," including the tower that defines the school's silhouette.
Plans to upgrade the century-old building have been delayed for more than eight years, and in the past, officials indicated that the tower would be preserved. But according to the proposal before the SDA, studies have determined that a complete renovation of the facility would be cost-prohibitive.
Preserving the tower while building new construction around it would cost at least $200 million, said Paymon Rouhanifard, superintendent of the state-run district.
Rouhanifard said the new building will have a tower. "We want to honor the legacy of that," he said.
The funding also would create four independent learning communities that will operate within the traditional public school, such as vocational programs. The completed building would have room for 1,200 students, according to the proposal before the SDA. About 700 students currently attend.
Built in 1916, Camden High is challenging to heat and cool due to poor insulation and a faulty boiler, and the district has spent millions on repairs and maintenance in recent years.
The district drafted plans to overhaul the building in 2007, and in 2008 Gov. Jon S. Corzine approved $100 million for the work. But the plan never went before the SDA, which is responsible for construction and renovation projects in the state's poorest districts, and in 2011 Camden High became one of more than 40 projects shelved when Gov. Christie announced a restructuring of the SDA.
In December 2014, Christie came to Camden High to announce that the school was in line to receive "at least" $50 million of the money it had been promised. Since then, design consultants have drafted the new plan.
Rouhanifard, who was appointed by Christie in 2013 to lead the district, said more details would be released this week after the SDA's meeting.
The construction, which would not begin for at least a year, would displace hundreds of students who would presumably attend classes in other city school buildings. The school's athletic programs, such as its basketball team, would have to find facilities large enough to hold the large audiences that attend the games, and Rouhanifard said he would be in contact with representatives of Rutgers-Camden.
Rouhanifard said he had discussed the proposal with current and former Camden High students as well as with teachers and administrators.
"There are so many alumni who have fond memories of the building," he said. "But at the end of the day, if you're not addressing the infrastructure, you're just not getting the full benefits of a modern building."