Wasser says prospects not likely for 7th h.s.

ENGLISHTOWN – Although he is still waiting on a demographer’s report, Freehold Regional High School District Superintendent of Schools James Wasser said at the Board of Education’s Oct. 9 meeting that building a seventh high school does not seem to be in the district’s future.

“Based upon what’s going on with the state budget, I don’t think the picture is very bright for us to go out and plan for a seventh high school at this time,” the superintendent said.

Wasser said he does not believe residents would support the increase in property taxes that would be needed in order to build a new school.

The Jackson school district in Ocean County opened a second public high school in September that was built over the past three years at a cost of about $70 million.

The FRHSD has eight sending municipalities: Colts Neck, Englishtown, Farmingdale, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro. The district’s total enrollment for the 2006-07 school year is about 11,800 students in six high schools that are in Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro.

In the coming months, a demographer will study recent population growth and residential building approvals in the district’s eight municipalities and report back to the board with the results.

Wasser said those results will remain the focus of facility improvements or new construction depending on the number of incoming students to the district.

According to public information officer Ilse Whisner, the demographic study is being conducted by T&M Associates.

Other enrollment studies are being prepared as well.

“Another important aspect is the actual student enrollments of our constituent elementary schools,” Whisner said. “We will be asking each of the districts to send us a copy of their state report for transported residential students, which is due in Trenton on Oct. 18.”

Whisner said the entire process should be completed in December or January.

On the topic of finding land for a seventh high school, Wasser has previously asked local elected officials to consider making land available to the FRHSD that could be used for a new school.

But “no one is coming to us with land,” he said, noting that the district cannot afford to purchase land – 50 acres or more – at market rate.

For now, Wasser believes residents will say, “figure out ways to tighten your shoestrings,” and manage enrollment concerns without building another school.

The FRHSD had 11,470 students in September 2004, 11,700 students in September 2005 and 11,800 students in September 2006.

– Larry Hlavenka Jr.