JERSEY SHORE - Citing a difficult fiscal reality and declining enrollment, the Jersey Shore Area School District proposed a two-year plan Monday that includes moving fourth- and fifth-grade students to the middle school and eighth-grade students to the high school starting in the 2013-14 school year.
Over the next two years, the district plans to complete a grade reconfiguration, an elementary school renovation and an addition project and move toward a one-campus concept.
Superintendent Richard Emery explained during a lengthy presentation that the upcoming school year will see the move of the fourth-, fifth- and eighth-grade students, if approved by the school board. The
Jersey Shore Area School Board member Denise Smith, center, asks questions about the proposed plan, including how the administration plans to add an additional lunch period to the day.
middle school then would be an intermediate school.
All current elementary schools would remain open, housing kindergarten through third grades.
Emery then said, starting in the 2014-15 school year, the Jersey Shore Elementary School would house all kindergarten through third-grade students. This would create one elementary school, intermediate school and high school.
Business Manager Adrienne Craig explained that increased costs, such as health care and retirement, along with a decrease in state funding, has forced the district to look at new options to save money.
"As our costs are escalating, the state is stagnant," she said.
Emery also explained that enrollment has been on a steady decline since 1978. He said the state Department of Education's projections for the coming years are continuing on a downward trend. With fewer students, he said, there is no need for as many buildings.
"At one time, there was a need for all of our buildings," Emery said.
The administration presented a similar plan in August but only recommended the moving of its fifth grade to the middle school at that time.
Emery said that the plan is in response to keeping as many of its programs intact, as possible.
"We are here to maintain, preserve and enhance our educational programs," he said. "That is what this recommendation is set up to do."
The entire plan, Emery explained, is contingent on the Jersey Shore Elementary School construction project being completed by the 2014-15 school year. Emery believes it is on track to comply with the deadline.
The administration's presentation showed that fourth- and fifth-grade students would remain separate from the sixth and seventh grades in the middle school. Fourth-grade students would remain with the same teacher for all of their core courses, while the fifth grade would change between two.
Like the fourth and fifth grades, eighth- and ninth-grade students would be segregated from the rest of the high school during most of the school day.
All grades in the intermediate and high schools would have separate lunch periods.
And although the proposal keeps students separate during the school day, all district students would ride the buses together. Bruce Boncal, transportation director, said that older students would sit in the back with younger ones in the front. He also said the practice already is used in some instances in the district.
The overall plan was a collaboration and was recommended after the administration met with teachers, principals and parent-teacher organizations.
"Our goal is to not eliminate programs we offer to students," Emery said.
Dr. Dorothy Chappel, assistant superintendent, asked the board to vote on the recommendations by the end of the month, so the district knows in what direction it is heading.
Emery stressed that no one on the administration wants to close any schools, but it must do what it can to preserve its programs.
"There is no one (in the administration) that has a burning desire to close a school," he said.
The recommendation is expected to be on the Jan. 28 agenda.