The first in a series of School Regionalization Town Hall meetings will take place Tuesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. in the Highlands Community Center, Snug Harbor Ave. The Town Hall meeting is open to everyone, regardless of residency, and will be an opportunity for all to learn facts and discuss issues with a proposed regionalization of Highlands, Atlantic Highlands and Sea Bright in a K through 12 school district under a single, nine member Board of Education instead of three separate nine member Boards.
A second Town Hall meeting covering the same subject will be held at Sea Bright Borough Hall, Ocean Avenue, on April 11, also at 7 p.m.
At a meeting of the Atlantic Highlands Mayor and Council earlier this month, Mayor Loretta Gluckstein named Tracey Abbey-White as chairwoman of the Mayor’s School Regionalization Advisory Committee. Present at the Council meeting on March 10, Abbey-White gave a comprehensive talk of the history of school regionalization, which began in the 1990s. The current committee was named last summer with the first meeting held in February, after passage of a state law on the regionalization question for school districts throughout the state. One sponsor of the new law was state Senator Declan O’Scanlon.
Atlantic Highlands indicated it is waiting for a report being completed by the Tri-District Board of Education feasibility study which includes Atlantic Highlands, Highlands and Henry Hudson and Gluckstein indicated it should be completed by April. At the March 24 Council meeting, however, the new completion date for the BOE feasibility study was stated as being May 22.
After that, the Atlantic Highlands governing body will consider whether it will petition the state Board of Education to consider regionalization of the Tri-District schools to include Sea Bright students as well. Both Highlands and Sea Bright have already passed their DOE petition resolutions indicating to the state Board of Education they want to put the regionalization question on the November ballot.
Abby-White told the governing body the Tri-District BOE Study only includes the districts without including Sea Bright, and adding Sea Bright into the Study would mean adjusting funding numbers. If Sea Bright is brought in via regionalization, there is a possibility of additional funding to support keeping property tax costs down.
Bringing in additional students would help sustain the future of the high school. Councilman Jon Crowley disagreed with Abby-White’s opinion concerning advantages with the inclusion of Sea Bright students. Abby White stressed the high school district must be increased to guarantee sustainability. With the Henry Hudson's last graduating class numbering 38 students, there is a question about future sustainability of the high school.
Abbey-White added that a "sweet spot" size of a k-12 district is 3,000 students. The current student population of the Tri-District is 780 students. Bringing Sea Bright students in would increase that total to about 800 students.