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Failed Sale of West End School Halts Restoration of Old High School

LONG BRANCH: When Menachem Learning Insitute's deal to buy the West End School from the Long Branch Board of Education fell apart last week, it created a ripple effect throughout the district.

The $3.3 million deal would have allowed the district to budget for a a major facility project, the restoration of the original Long Branch High School on Westwood Avenue.

"They were not approved for a mortgage, and by law, a public organization cannot negotiate with a bidder," Long Branch School District Superintendent Michael Salvatore told Word on the Shore.

Long Branch education officials had hoped to use the school, built in 1924, to house the district’s alternative education program for 124 students with behavioral problems and learning disabilities. The district is currently paying $5,500 per month to lease space at the old Holy Trinity School on Division Street for the alternative education program.

The old high school is in need of several repairs, but the money allocated for phase one of the project would have allowed the district to "open the doors again," Salvatore said.

"Phase one would bring the system and utilities up to code and we would be able to have use of the auditorium, gym, hallways and four classrooms," Salvatore said.

Salvatore has said the entire site has been remediated to remove asbestos but that there is still much work to be done.

Salvatore said the district is still working with the School Development Authority (SDA) and the governor's office to get the funding for the project.

He has said the renovation of the old high school was a project the state committed to several years ago and that after the completion of the new high school, the state coordinated the removal of asbestos and the old science wing, which allowed the current football stadium to be built. His hope is that the SDA will include the renovation of the old high school when the next round of projects are announced.

Salvatore said the district has already gone out to bid for the sale of the West End School again and that if a successful bid is submitted, the money could once again be earmarked for the remediation of the old high school. 

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