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Enrollment Drop Group to Propose 6 Options

Community Advisory Committee continues exploration of extra classroom space of enrollment projections come true.

The Community Advisory Committee, , is preparing to draft a report of its findings to present to the school’s governing body in September.

The group, which has been meeting monthly but not convening in August, was tasked with finding different ways–if any–to make up for a potential enrollment drop of 500 students over the next five years.

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The committee, made up of volunteers from the community, encompasses parents, empty-nesters and residents without children alike, and has met six times since March.

The committee is now ready to take action and make a proposal to the board of education, according to board member Michelle Munley.

The proposal will include the following options:

  • Maximizing space utilization. This option would enable the district to expand existing programs into unused classroom space.
  • Examining the role of the district as an education service provider to other areas.
  • Enabling outside organizations to occupy the vacant space. This would primarily be for after school activities, but utilization of the space during school hours is not off the table.
  • Consolidation of existing space via redistricting.
  • Neighborhood schooling. This option would reassign each school to a specific set of grades, i.e., grades K-2 for Cucinella School, grades 3-5 for Flocktown-Kossmann.
  • Closing a school building.

“These are the options the committee has come up with,” Munley said. “We think this is what can be done and still help us be fiscally responsible while providing quality education.”

Not the First Time

A decade ago a demographer’s report showed enrollment in Washington Township schools was going to escalate, so much so that the board at that time recommended a new school building be built.

From that came the largest school building built in the township, as the Benedict A. Cucinella School was erected on Naughright Road.

That decision, now, seems to be a poor one, and Munley said the committee is wary about making a similar decision.

“The community is very concerned about the permanency of positions,” Munley said. “They don’t want to implement something and then the projection doesn’t play out. We want to be cautious and move wisely. We don’t want to kick ourselves down the line.”

The committee will finalize those options at its next meeting on Sept. 27, Munley said. A draft report will be proposed to the board, which will then be given back to the committee for final approval on Oct. 17. The formal decision by the committee regarding which option to pursue will be made to the board on Nov. 13.

From there it’s the board’s decision, Munley said.

“It’s important for this plan to be fluid–so many factors have played into this situation,” Munley said. “And people want to see this to fruition.”

The next Community Advisory Committee meeting will be held at the on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.

Thomas Lotito August 17, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Jeff, Not to mention the surplus money hidden away. I wonder how much un-reproted money the BOE had at the end of last year between teacher retirement and money saved on heat bills because it was a warm winter?
LVMom August 17, 2012 at 07:38 PM
i honestly think we need to keep the school and use it. if not in 5 years when the economy comes back and people start selling their homes, or having children again we will have to build another school. the problem is that houses are not selling so those of us with graduating seniors are stuck here. most towns have turn over of seniors to 'new' families. since we can't sell our houses (what maybe 6-8 houses sold in the last 6 months- i think) no new families are moving in. if, make that WHEN, the economy turns around then you'll have new students.
Thomas Lotito August 17, 2012 at 08:08 PM
LVMom-This is the standard line that Jeff Mohr and the BOE use when you ask them about closing a school. Even if the economy turns around, the problem with your assertion is; the Highlands Act has stopped all building. Morris County will become an economic victim of the reverse doughnut effect, similar to the Pine Barrens.With enrollment set to drop another 500 students by 2016, your scenario is not plausible The demographics doesn't support your claim.
Claire August 17, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Does anyone know how many houses are vacant out of the 120 houses on the market in WT?
C M B August 19, 2012 at 08:08 PM
The short-sighted nature of this discussion is that even if the economy "comes back" NJ is losing the higher salaried jobs at a pace that makes the likelihood of real estate rebounding significantly over pre-2008 numbers in this part of the state very unlikely. The contraction of the pharmaceutical industry will continue into 2013 and those employees and those of other higher paying industries make up the demographic that has composed much of the tax base in this part of Morris County. With those jobs disappearing and the ominous property tax situation that looms large, the likelihood young families coming to fill those LV houses to give you the new students you are hoping to see is rather unpromising. So instead of all the politicizing and finger-pointing going on over "a done deal" that sits there in mortar and brick, how about if everyone addresses the here and now of the situation? The best use of that under-utilized school space should be for adult ed programs in the morning and evenings. I totally agree with a concept of community education offerings in technology, language and work-skills and possibly recreation activities like art, dance or senior-citizen health and well-being classes. This would be the appropriate direction for Washington Township to take when looking at Cucinella. The use of a modern and attractive facility in this way would also serve as an enticement to new homebuyers looking to relocate in Morris County.
GiGi Richards August 19, 2012 at 08:32 PM
C M B - I love your ideas. I think you have made one of the most sensible and articulate posts I have seen on here. Thank you! I hope that the BOE and WT Committee and this group take YOUR suggestions to heart and this is the direction we take.
Beach Mover August 20, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Common sense says something must be done. About 3100 students in district before new school opened that holds 780 students. Today 2450 students in district with new school opened that holds 780 students. The bold question is would the district consider putting the 5th grade back in the Middle School where there would be about 1250 students (At one point the school had about 1450 students enrolled) and close 2 schools Koosman and Flocktown and lease out to someone else. You would have BAC for houses on mountain and OFRS for house in Valley
Beach Mover August 20, 2012 at 06:34 PM
So I guess it has grown!!
RAH August 20, 2012 at 09:51 PM
That is the most common sense thing to do. There was no need to pull the 5th graders out of the middle school in the first place. If the Kossman/Flocktown schools were closed that space could be used to put in the much awaited township recreation facility. A place were all of the kids within Long Valley could go to.
cv August 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I think a community center is the best idea yet.
Beach Mover August 22, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Take it one step further. How about a a community center with a pool! This would be a perfect place. Pretty much in center of town. Plenty of parking might have to add some but both schools empty all summer. Minor adjustments to Flocktown to make Gym and some space available to public. Keep school pretty much intact so if there is a big uptick in enrollment can be used again. Some space could be used by outside school, eduction major teacher training, ideas are limitless. Everybody benefits. Fields should be no problem, lets be honest there are 650 or so less kids playing sports! (I know they don't all play but many do) Lease to Y or again many ways to get done. The entire town would benefit. Talking to a friend he said many kids could even walk to the pool!! Oh well makes to much sense.
cv August 22, 2012 at 05:52 PM
@Jeff GREAT IDEAS.
Beach Mover August 22, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Another way to look at the budget, is cost per student. In 2010-2011 actual cost per student was $12,492 in the 2012 -2013 budget, 2 years later, estimated cost per student is $14,264 per student. That is about a 7% per year increase. Not a small number. http://www.wtschools.org/file/e26a6d67.htm
Kevin M. Nedd August 22, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Who would pay to make the changes and open the new facility? Who would operate and pay the annual operating costs? Would any of this result in additional taxes? Ken Short has been kicking around the idea of a "community center" for over ten years, yet there is no business plan.
cv August 22, 2012 at 10:17 PM
@KMN I think Jeff had a good idea with leasing to the YMCA. If they were given a good lease they would make the changes necessary because they would be profiting.
Kevin M. Nedd August 22, 2012 at 10:41 PM
There is no business case suggesting the YMCA would want to take this on or that it would be profitable for them to do so. People have been saying its a good idea for 10 years. Where is the business plan? Will it explicitly state no tax dollars will be used in any way?
Kevin M. Nedd August 22, 2012 at 10:56 PM
To put things in better context, the last time JK had a "good idea" he was sitting as the chair of the WTBOE Finance Committee and it led to a $2.3 million tax increase, the largest in township history.
cv August 22, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Kevin I get what you are saying. Asof today I am sure there is no business plan.
Kevin M. Nedd August 22, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Glad you agree...so until their is one, let's hold of on determining if it is a "good idea" or not.
Beach Mover August 22, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Way way way to funny. The square root of a business plan divided by aw come on people just a first thought might be a bad thought maybe somebody will put a good business plan together Just relax CV who knows
Kevin M. Nedd August 23, 2012 at 12:17 AM
It's only been 10 years...
Beach Mover August 23, 2012 at 02:11 AM
CV Ii think it was 2.4 million for Cook as finance chair not the 2.3 million as Mr Nedd said. The cost per student went down from previous years by 2.8 percent That was the old days when we were growing at 5 to 10 percent each year. I was called a "Mom on the Board" then when I was on BOE
Thomas Lotito August 23, 2012 at 02:30 AM
No more spending proposals for schools or community centers, the taxpayers are broke!
Beach Mover August 23, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I agree Tom Let some outside groups look at it and see if they can make it work. Not a nickel spent by taxpayers If f it does not pay end of story Having done a preliminary business plan for a pool down by Brew pub a few years ago I think it would surely pay if the town and BOE could come to some sort of "deal" for Fliovktown school area. Who knows !!
Thomas Lotito August 23, 2012 at 03:12 AM
I think the reality of the situation is, and Jeff Moher told me this a few years ago. The BOE is holding on to keeping the schools open because they believe that the the school population will come back because we have the same number of houses in WT as we did in 2004. So, in their minds they don't want to consider closing a school. The committee to close a school is like window dressing, to give the appearance they are doing something about the decreasing enrollment situation. Meanwhile, as enrollment decreases, they keep expanding Special Ed with more and more layers of administrators in order to keep the appearance that all of the school buildings are needed and the budget just about stays the same. Every time you ask Liz George for info for floor plans etc..it's like a game of hide and seek.. Information is slow coming and missing information is very time consuming to obtain.
Kevin M. Nedd August 23, 2012 at 03:37 AM
How would it "surely pay"? What are the revenues and the expenses that you make it profitable? You keep making these definitive statements, but offer no evidence to back them up. Is this how we ended up with a $2.4 million dollar tax increase?
Kevin M. Nedd August 23, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Trying to mask the fact YOU (Jeff Koch) were WTBOE Finance Chair when the $2.4 million school tax increase was imposed on WT property owners. Wow...that's pretty lame; even by your demonstrated standards of dishonesty (e.g. Scott Doucher)
cv August 23, 2012 at 12:35 PM
@Kevin and Jeff you have to forgive me when I dont respond back. I admit nj budgets and politics confuse the crap out of me. I have only lived in this state for 2 years and my head is spinning. I used to think the city was screwed up boy was I wrong. I think we need to get Dennis Wolcott here . He is the NYC superintendant of schools and if he can make it happen there he can make it happen anywhere.
cv August 23, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I apoligize I did spell his name wrong and oops he is the Chancellor. I forgot its not the board of Ed anymore it is the depatment of Education.
Just Sayin' August 27, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Jason, could you put this up for a vote on the patch? What should the BOE do about the declining enrollment issue?? It would be interesting to see...you can see what options they are reviewing on the website, so use that as a guide for the options!!

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