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Seaside Heights to Hold Town Hall Meeting on School Referendum Thursday; Vote Set for April 16

The Hugh J. Boyd elementary school in Seaside Heights, 2023. (Photo: Shorebeat)

The Hugh J. Boyd elementary school in Seaside Heights, 2023. (Photo: Shorebeat)

Seaside Heights will host a “town hall” style meeting Thursday where residents will have the opportunity to engage with experts and officials about the upcoming referendum that, if approved, would see the Seaside Heights school district subsumed into the Toms River Regional school district.

The referendum vote is set for April 16 and will be held in all of the current municipalities that form the regional district, as well as Seaside Heights. Some residents have expressed concern over the potential closure of the Hugh J. Boyd Elementary School in Seaside Heights, however Toms River Regional officials have agreed to keep the school open for five years as long as the student population remains at 125 pupils or more.

The town hall meeting will provide residents the chance to hear more about the regionalization proposal and ask questions of the consultants who prepared a study that ultimately recommended the consolidation. These experts include Mary Robinson-Cohen, a former teacher and Roosevelt Public School District superintendent who is also an attorney, who will be on hand to answer questions regarding the educational aspects of the merger. Vito A. Gagliardi, a Morristown-based attorney who led the study, will answer legal questions, and Steven Cea, an accountant who specializes in school finance, will speak to the financial and tax ramifications of the regionalization effort. Local elected officials will also be in attendance.

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Students in Seaside Heights currently attend the locally-controlled Boyd school from pre-K through sixth grade before transferring to the Central Regional school district, located 18 miles southeast in Berkeley Township. The merger, according to the consulting team, would result in Seaside Heights’ large population of special needs and non-English speaking students having more access to special education resources, and could help improve chronically low test scores. Financially, the existing districts within the TRRS system would subsidize Seaside Heights’ tax burden for 10 years in order to guarantee savings, however in year 11, the tax rate would revert to a formulaic outcome that would assess property owners’ tax bills based on their value, as is the case in other districts that are part of a regional school system.

Officials have said no teachers will lose their jobs as a result of ‘yes’ vote on the referendum, and busing (including after school busing) will be provided to all students. Toms River Regional will also continue to provide pre-K for Seaside Heights students.

Despite assertions that no jobs will be lost, the powerful New Jersey Education Association has opposed passage of the referendum, and local teachers have argued that the eventual closure of the Boyd school will lead to Seaside Heights losing a sense of community and the district’s small class sizes. There have also been concerns raised about the financial impact after the decade-long subsidy ends, and whether per-student costs could skyrocket if Seaside Heights property values rise significantly with dozens of redevelopment projects underway.

More on the details of the plan can be found in our previous coverage here, here and here.

Former Gov. Chris Christie cuts the ribbon reopening the Hugh J. Boyd Elementary School following Superstorm Sandy, Sept. 5, 2013. (Photo: Governor's Office/ Tim Larsen)

Former Gov. Chris Christie cuts the ribbon reopening the Hugh J. Boyd Elementary School following Superstorm Sandy, Sept. 5, 2013. (Photo: Governor’s Office/ Tim Larsen)

While the meeting is designed to be less formal that a typical council meeting, the public session of the meeting may be preceded or followed by an executive session, and formal action may be taken, a notice of the meeting said.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, located above the Seaside Heights firehouse at 116 Sherman Avenue (also known as 901 Boulevard).

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