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Decision On New Oceanport School Referendum To Be Made Soon

OCEANPORT: The Oceanport Board of Education will likely narrow its three options for the location of a new school this month.

The board is holding a meeting on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at Wolf Hill School to discuss the topic, according to BOE President Michelle McMullin.

"This meeting is of particular importance because the three choices for the Oceanport School Project will be presented," McMullin said on Facebook. "The board intends to reach a consensus on the final option at this meeting."

The first option is to build a new PreK-4 school behind Wolf Hill School. The board felt this was a better option than renovating Wolf Hill School because the students would not need to be relocated and it was also cheaper than demoing the original building or renovating it and making additions to it. The Maple Place School also is in not in need of major repairs (another one of the board's original options) and its systems are in better shape than the aging infrastructure at Wolf Hill School.

The second option is to build a new Prek-8 school at Fort Monmouth near the proposed Oceanport Municipal Complex off of Main Street. Two sites were presented, but the board ultimately eliminated one that would involve swapping land with Eatontown in order to acquire it due to its proximity to the border between the two boroughs at the fort.

The board would have to purchase the land from the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) to build the 2-story school. The option is also complicated because the BOE would not be able to simply purchase the land from FMERA, it would have to put in a bid for it, a process which cannot be done because the referendum needs to include the total price of what is to be bonded when it is put out for a vote.

The board would either have to petition the state legislature and allow itself to purchase the land directly from FMERA, or have the borough purchase the land from FMERA and then sell it to the board. A county-owned homeless shelter near the site would also need to be relocated, and the site's proximity to wetlands and a body of water would also need approvals from the DEP and CAFRA.

Board member Cullin Wible and other board members felt this process was too complicated, but there was no consensus on the board to remove the option so it remained and the board will now follow up with the borough on the feasibility of purchasing the land.

The final option involves purchasing the old CommVault site on Crescent Place and expanding it to become the borough's new Pre-K-8 school district. There is no price yet for this option as the board-hired architect, Bill Pappalardo of JBA Architecture, has not yet explored the costs associated with acquiring and expanding the site.

The board must now review its three remaining options and ultimately pick one and send it to the New Jersey Department of Education so it can be approved and ultimately be put to a vote by residents of Oceanport and Sea Bright, which also sends its Prek-8 students to the Oceanport School District. If the vote passes, the board would bond the appropriate sum to cover the cost of the project and then go out to bid to find a qualified bidder.

Read more from: Oceanport

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