Incomplete information pushes Jersey Shore plan back

JERSEY SHORE – After presenting a comprehensive plan to the Jersey Shore Area School Board less than two weeks ago, the district now has to put the proposal on hold.

Superintendent Richard Emery made the announcement at a special meeting recently.

The proposal included moving the district’s fourth- and fifth-grade students to the middle school, eight-grade students to the high school and closing all but one elementary school.

Emery explained that during a routine conference call Jan. 16 with the state Department of Education about the construction project currently under way at Jersey Shore Elementary, PDE informed him that going forward with the plan would “jeopardize” state reimbursement for the project.

Reimbursement would be affected because the grade reconfiguration was not included in PlanCon part A during the district’s application for the construction project.

Emery said he was not sure if it would affect the entire reimbursement or a part of it.

“I kind of got the feeling it would (affect the entire reimbursement),” he said on Wednesday. “Once (PDE) said it would jeopardize reimbursement, the administration took the stance that we would change the timeline (of the comprehensive plan).”

Emery said he never contacted or spoke with PDE about the comprehensive plan before presenting it, nor did it come up in discussions with administrators when building the plan. He said it is because the plan never was created in response to the construction project but in order to keep educational programs in the district.

“We’re looking for ways to keep what we do,” he said when speaking about programs.

The district also was notified by PDE that in order to not affect reimbursement, it could not implement the plan until the construction project was fully completed and the building was occupied for at least one year.

With the recent news from PDE, Emery said the administration is looking to alter the timeline of the start of the plan. He said the district still believes the plan is “doable,” it just is going to take longer to implement.

In Emery’s estimation, the plan will not take effect for “about two years.”

If the project stays on schedule, Emery said construction on the elementary school should be completed by the start of the 2014-15 school year. So the plan could not be implemented until the 2015-16 school year.

Numerous times during the initial presentation on the comprehensive plan, Emery said it was needed in order to maintain the district’s programs.

Now that it is unable to start the plan, Emery said he has his “fingers crossed” that it will be able to salvage as many of its programs as possible. He added that the district is able to close an elementary school because that was included in the PlanCon process.

“I really don’t know (if the board will explore closing a school). I think a lot of that will (depend) on the budget this year. … We will be looking at a way to keep our educational programs,” he said.

But Emery isn’t confident that programs can be spared.

“In my opinion, if the budget comes in from the state, or the subsidy from the state, where I’ve been hearing,” Emery said, “we have nothing to look at but programs (when balancing the budget).”