High school project part of rebirth of Trenton
TRADES & UNION DIGEST > Jobsites > New high school arises in Trenton

By Shannon Eblen

For more than 80 years, Trenton Central High School was a cherished part of the city. The
school produced famous athletes, musicians, and even a New York City mayor. But it eventually
began to crumble, its brick walls, ionic columns and soaring clock tower felled by neglect and
time. A new Trenton Central High is being built in its place by union labor, many of whom had
family members who attended the school.
“My father went to that school,” said Chuddy Whalen, assistant business manager of the United
Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9. “A lot of our fathers probably went there back
in the day.”

Fred Dumont, business manager of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators
and Asbestos Workers Local 89, went to a different area school but remembered having games
in the old gym. “My father played basketball here,” he said, “I played basketball here, my sons
played basketball here.”

The school inspired a lot of pride, according to Whalen, and as it was being demolished, alumni
showed up to take bricks from the old building. “You just looked at it and kind of marveled at its
size,” Whalen said. “It was a beautiful facility.”
New high school will be modern and efficient

The new school, at 374,000 square feet, has a smaller footprint than the old school, but is
designed to be more efficient. The 1,800 students will be divided into five Small Learning
Communities (SLC) that each has its own wing or a floor of a wing, with its own entrance.
Each area is designed with the elective focus of the SLC in mind. The visual and performing arts
classrooms and studios wrap around a 1,000-seat auditorium. The STEM wing will have exposed
ceilings, with lines in different colors so students see how the plumbing and wiring works, said
Andrew Oakley, the School Development Authority’s Deputy Program Director. Each SLC has its
own learning resource center with meeting rooms.

Off to the sides of the spacious, bright main entrance, the media center and cafeteria each
feature a curtain wall that looks out onto a courtyard. Outside the library will be an
amphitheater, and outside the cafeteria will be an outdoor dining area. Beyond those rooms
will be two gymnasiums and an eight-lane swimming pool. On an average day, there are 225 to
240 workers constructing the new high school, Oakley said.

High school project part of rebirth of Trenton

“The rebirth of Trenton Central High School is not only delivering hundreds of union jobs under
a project labor agreement, it’s also part of the rebirth of Trenton,” said Wayne DeAngelo,
president of Mercer-Burlington Counties and Vicinity Building Trades Council, AFL-CIO.  “We’re
putting Trenton and Trenton-area residents back to work.”

DeAngelo recalled putting new security systems in TCHS twenty-five years ago. “The school was
already very old back then. But now,” he said, “students will have the latest and greatest
including SMART boards and energy-efficient lighting and heating.”

The $155.4 million school is a design-build project led by contractor Terminal Construction
Corps and architectural firm Design Ideas Group Architecture + Planning, LLC, with the
construction of the school overlapping with its design.

With September 2019 as the goal for completion, some of the last fixtures to be added to the
building will be artifacts from the original. A WPA mural and marble wainscoting and
chandeliers, all salvaged prior to demolition, will be added to the new school as mementos of
the old.

Mark O’Brien of Local 9 went to school at TCHS in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It had a lot of
history and memories for him, he said, so it was sad to see the old one torn down, but it was
good to be back. “I think it’s going to be nice,” he said, looking around at the cement block halls
and muddy floors, with months of work still to go. “I hope they keep it that way, keep it for 100
years like the old one.”


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