Longport, Ocean City officials to meet about sending-receiving options

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LONGPORT – The state Department of Education has given the Board of Education the go-ahead to send its students to Ocean City High School starting in September, which could save taxpayers here about $9,000 per student.

The move would require the two districts to form an official sending/receiving relationship and would need approval from the Ocean City Board of Education, which meets next on June 25.

Longport and Ocean City district officials are scheduled to meet this week to discuss details, including if parents could have a choice of their children attending either Ocean City High School or Atlantic City High School.

There are currently 24 Longport students in high schools, including Ocean City, private and parochial schools, but only nine attend Atlantic City High School. District officials need to determine how many ninth graders are expected show up at Ocean City High School in the fall.

Longport Board of Education President Carl Tripician said parents and community members requested the switch.

“We had inquiries from stakeholders, including parents and residents, to look into this,” Tripician said.

According to Longport school board solicitor George K. Miller, Tripician and attorney Brittany Camp are meeting with Ocean City School District officials on Wednesday to begin the process, and have reached out to Interim Executive County Superintendent Thomas J. Dowd for input on the agreement.

“Longport has very educated and concerned board members who are looking for an opportunity to give parents the maximum amount of choice and the opportunity to pick a school,” Miller said on Tuesday.

The Longport Board of Education conducted a feasibility study and agreed in December 2011 to formally ask the education commissioner to allow it to sever its sending/receiving relationship with ACHS and establish a sending/receiving relationship with Ocean City.

At that time, Miller said because Longport had so few students in high school, the move would meet the state’s criteria of having no significant effect on the present receiving district.

The issue had been discussed informally for about 15 years, Miller said, adding that the board originally looked at joining the Mainland Regional High School District.

The feasibility study by Centennium Consultants, LLC, determined that there would be “no substantial negative impact” in three critical areas, financial, racial and educational to any of the three communities involved, Longport, Atlantic City and Ocean City.

Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education Davis Hespe ruled June 10 that Longport may sever or modify the existing sending/receiving relationship with ACHS to create a dual agreement with both districts.

Miller favors a dual agreement that would allow parents to have “the maximum supervision over their children’s education,” but has yet to speak with Atlantic City School District officials about it.

Atlantic City can appeal Hespe’s decision to the Superior Court Appellate Division.

Hespe’s decision reversed an earlier decision by Administrative Law Judge Bruce Gorman, who ruled that the removal of Longport students would add to racial imbalance at ACHS.

However, Hespe ruled that the nine students from Longport attending ACHS comprise just 2 percent of the school’s 22 percent white population, and therefore, would not negatively impact the racial composition of the school.

Hespe also ruled that a new sending/receiving relationship with Ocean City must be established for a minimum of five years.

The Longport School District would pay the Ocean City School District tuition, $14,957 per student for the 2014-2015 school year, saving taxpayers about $9,000 per student.

Since there are Longport students already attending OCHS as School Choice students, the arrangement would also free up limited School Choice seats for other students to attend OCHS.

The program has helped to fill empty desks in the Ocean City School District, enabling the district to maintain programs and staffing levels. Ocean City schools received $2.7 million in School Choice state aid this year.

Longport students in kindergarten through eighth grade attend school in Margate through an established sending/receiving relationship with the Margate School District.

Miller said that after meeting with school officials about the process, a special public meeting will be held to inform parents about their choices.


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