Towns may be interested

in donating land for h.s.

FRHSD examines

options in case

7th school needed


Staff Writer

Freehold Regional High School District administrators have taken the initial steps in attempting to determine if a new high school may need to be built and to secure property in the event that it is necessary.

The district operates high schools in Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marl-boro. The district draws students from those six municipalities, and from Englishtown and Farmingdale. Enrollment presently stands at slightly under 11,000 students.

The FRHSD is presently conducting a demographic study aimed at projecting enrollment over the next five years, said public information officer Ilse Whisner. FRHSD administrators have met with local elementary school superintendents to verify the number of children presently attending school in those districts, she said.

The results of the demographic study are expected to be made public when the FRHSD Board of Education meets at 8 p.m. June 7 at Colts Neck High School.

Whisner confirmed what several local municipal officials told Greater Media News-papers this week — that district administrators have ap-proached some municipalities to ask that a donation of land for a new school be considered.

"We’re looking to see who can come up with (donated) land to keep it as beneficial as possible to taxpayers," she said. "If one town can come up with land that would be the likely location" for a new school. "If more than one town came up with land then we would evaluate those parcels. We’re looking for the best deal and we’re looking to see if a new school is even necessary."

She said if enrollment continues to increase at the pace it has been at for the past few years — about 500 additional students each September — the district will be OK for another two to three years in terms of space. At that point, she said, all available space would be used.

Whisner said any action regarding the securing of property for a new high school would be subject to approval from the board. Any proposal for a new school would be subject to a referendum that would be placed before the voters of all eight sending municipalities.

She stressed that no decision on whether a new school is needed or where a new school might be built has been made by the administration or the board.

Manalapan Mayor Beth Ward said she and Township Committeeman Drew Shapiro met with FRHSD Superintendent of Schools James Wasser to discuss the district’s request for prop­erty. Ward said FRHSD administrators indicated a need for a minimum of 60 to 70 acres for a high school.

The mayor said Manalapan is inter­ested in the request, but only if a new school can be built on or near Route 33. She said the township has identified a parcel that should be donated to the mu­nicipality in the future. Combined with another tract to be donated, officials will have to determine if the two parcels could be linked to provide a suitable site for a high school, the mayor said.

Ward said both properties she had in mind meet Manalapan’s criteria of being on or near Route 33.

FRHSD administrators have also reached out to Howell.

"We have been approached by the FRHSD on a number of issues, including our feelings on (another) high school in Howell," said Mayor Timothy J. Konopka.

Konopka would not elaborate on his statement. He said that up until this point the issue has only been discussed in closed session by the Township Council.

Howell Councilman Peter Tobasco previously confirmed that a $16 million bond ordinance that was expected to have been discussed at a council meeting on May 18 could include room for a high school on a 150-acre site near the Manasquan Reservoir that officials may choose to pursue.

Marlboro Mayor Robert Kleinberg said, "FRHSD administrators came to us and asked us to donate 85 acres for a high school. As part of our comprehensive master plan we will address all concerns impacting Marlboro residents. Until we come up with a comprehensive master plan I can’t say one way or another if we have that land to donate."

Freehold Township public information officer Sandy Belan said the municipality has not been approached by representa­tives of the FRHSD seeking property for a new high school in the community.

As a means of comparison, the Jackson school district in northern Ocean County is in the process of building a new high school. The school is expected to hold 1,900 students and will carry a price tag of $70 million, which included the pur­chase of the land, according to a district spokeswoman.

The FRHSD would stand to save money on the construction of a new high school if a municipality donates property for the building and the district does not have to ask taxpayers to buy the tract.

Staff writer Kathy Baratta contributed to this story.