A proposed reorganization in the Asbury Park (N.J.) School District would mean fewer elementary schools and more grade levels housed at the high school.
The Asbury Park Press reports that the district is trying to address a sharp reduction in state aid and future cutbacks that are expected as student enrollment continues to decline.
“We need to re-think, re-imagine what we have and what we are doing,” Superintendent Sancha K. Gray says. “How do we do that? We do that by consolidating, consolidating and reorganizing our schools."
The proposed realignment would reduce the number of elementary schools from three to two. Barack Obama Elementary School would be “repurposed” for building and maintenance needs and other uses yet to be determined.
The remaining elementary schools — Bradley and Thurgood Marshall — would house grades pre-K to 3.
Martin Luther King Middle School would switch from a grade 6-8 configuration to grades 4-6. Asbury Park High School would house grades 7-12.
“We are going to look at our high school differently,” Gray says. “We are going to re-imagine a high school to include career and academic pathways for students in grades seven to 12. We have a very large structure.”
The planned changes come as the district is facing a state aid cutback that has already meant a 13 percent drop in state aid—$3.4 million—for the 2019-20 school year. Gray says that estimates of state funding losses through 2025 amount to nearly $25 million.
Gray says most of the reduction in state aid is because of declining enrollment, which is expected to continue in the coming years. A 2017 state analysis revealed the district population had dropped from 2,269 students in 2007-08 to 1,974 in 2016-17.
John Napolitani, president of the Asbury Park Education Association, which represents 425 teachers and support staff, says the union was not consulted about the proposal.
“They should start cutting costs in the central office first because that’s an ever-growing area,” says Napolitani.