Work begins on launch of new charter school

Middle school for three towns plans to open its doors in September

By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

WEST LONG BRANCH — The Jersey Shore Charter School made its debut for the public Monday night at the borough’s public library. The school’s founders put on the first of several information sessions planned over the next several weeks.

The interested and the merely curious turned out to hear the founders of the school explain their program and goals for the middle school when it opens its doors this fall. It will have a fifth, sixth and seventh grade initially and then will add an eighth grade in the second year of operation.

Some 33 people, adults and children, packed the library’s community room for the hour-long session, and when they departed, the school’s founders had their first six applications in hand.

Similar sessions were planned for Tuesday night in the Oceanport Community Center and Wednesday night at the Sheraton Eatontown Hotel.

"If we get six applications in the other two meetings this week, that’s a good start," Gary Bradley, one of the founders said as the last stragglers left, noting that toted up to 18. "People seemed very interested."

The Jersey Shore Charter School was approved by the state Department of Education for 180 students in the first year, with a four-year projection of serving 240 students. It is geared to draw students from this borough, Oceanport and Eatontown, but Bradley said it would also accept children from other towns if applicants from those three don’t fill the classes.

The charter school has set a limit of 20 students per class and plans eventually to have three classrooms per grade. Officials are seeking a site to house the school.

Bradley observed that those at the information session had a lot of questions.

"There were a lot of concerns," he said, because the school doesn’t have a principal, teachers or a building yet. "They wanted information on how it will work. They wanted information on what happens if it doesn’t work."

Bradley said the founders of the school will hold similar information sessions every other week over a seven-week period. He said there will be three sessions — one in each of the three targeted boroughs — in each of the upcoming three weeks that they are to be held.

School officials in the three boroughs from which the charter school will draw students — along with some of those leaving the information session — are concerned about the loss of school funding that will follow them. Ninety percent of the per-pupil cost goes from the district with each student.

The Jersey Shore Charter School is one of only two charter schools given the green light this year by state Education Commissioner William L. Librera.

It was the school’s third try; two earlier applications were denied.

Bradley is convinced that it won’t fail.

"We’ve been doing this for three years," he said. "We’re not giving up now."