New lawn signs signal opposition to school closure
Sunday strategy session unveils new awareness effort
Members of a parent group opposing the proposed closure of West Belmar Elementary School met again on Sunday for another strategy session ahead of the Feb. 8 Board of Education meeting.
Nearly 30 concerned residents gathered inside the Wall Fire Company #1 on 18th Avenue – almost double the group's Jan. 16 turnout – to review discussion at the recent Township Committee and Board of Education meetings, and to discuss their game plan for raising awareness throughout the town.
Meanwhile, the Board of Education has authorized an independent study by Middletown-based T & M associates to find out how much money could be saved by closing Wall's oldest school. The town’s own study found that it would save an estimated $1 million. The T & M results are supposed to be completed by early March, according to Tom Coyle, an organizer of the Save Wall Township Schools group.
But many group members feel that money can be saved elsewhere. Members suggested cutting the salaries and perks of the superintendent and other administrators. Some said that closing the town’s oldest school will negatively affect the entire town when the three remaining elementary schools are forced to redistrict their students, who are already sitting in overcrowded classrooms.
“Redistricting will affect all students,'' Coyle said. "They will have to breakup classrooms and schools. We need to make people aware of that.”
Many group members were also concerned with the potential impact of larger class sizes on special needs students. West Belmar has the town’s highest proportion of special needs students, Coyle said.
Members were also concerned about the potential influx of students in the future and the possibility of having to spend millions on a new school to accommodate them.
Others reiterated previous fears regarding a possible drop in property values if the school was to close.
Organizers Coyle and Melanie Giblin distributed newly-printed lawn signs at the end of the meeting, hoping to raise awareness to their cause.
While the group may be gathering support, the power to close West Belmar rests solely in the hands of the Board of Education, Coyle said.
“It’s a matter of if, and when, they want to do it,” Coyle said.
The game plan from here, according to Coyle, is to stress that all of Wall, not just West Belmar, will be affected by the school’s closing.
“This is not about West Belmar versus Wall. This is about saving Wall schools,” Coyle said.
For more information, visit: http://savewallschools.webs.com. Lawn signs can be purchased for $3 by contacting Melanie Giblin through the Save Wall Schools website.