Toms River Seeks Date For Seaside Referendum

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  TOMS RIVER – The Toms River Regional School District is seeking a date to hold a referendum asking voters whether Seaside kids should join the district.

  Seaside students currently go to the Hugh J. Boyd Jr. School for elementary and then Central Regional Middle School and High School. Seaside Heights officials reached out to Toms River to see if the kids could go there instead. If the Seaside Heights district closes, Boyd will close. Some residents have been upset about this, worried that they are losing a huge part of their community as well as their home rule. They have been critical of the Seaside Heights Board of Education, accusing them of colluding with the town to make the school into the new police station.

  In order to take in Seaside kids, a majority of voters in the Toms River district’s towns would have to agree to it.

  At a recent meeting, the majority of the Toms River Board of Education voted to ask the state if they could hold the election on March 12. Board members Melissa Morrison and Paola Pascarella voted no. Board member Anna Polozzo was absent.

  There are only certain dates that the state allows special elections. March 12 would give the district more time to make changes as early as the 2024-2025 school year.

  However, given that this is less than a month away, and the district still hasn’t received confirmation from the state, it’s unlikely that this date will be it. The district needs to send out mail-in ballots, and there isn’t a lot of time to get that done, a school official noted.

  In a later board meeting, residents asked about the decision.

  Sherie Ensor, a second grade teacher at the Boyd school, asked if keeping the Boyd school open was ever considered. For example, there is an elementary school in Beachwood, Pine Beach, and South Toms River. Her suggestion was to keep an elementary school in Seaside and have the older kids go to Toms River for middle and high school.

  Superintendent Michael Citta said no. “When the regionalization study started in 2021, the building was never part of it,” he said. “That is not a Toms River Reginal School decision. That is a Seaside Heights decision.”

  Ensor spoke with the help of a English to Spanish translator for residents attending the meeting. She thanked the board for providing more information than her own board has.

  Alexa Padula, who was critical of closing the school, asked if Toms River conducted their own study or did they accept the information from the Seaside board, who they have already called untrustworthy.

  Citta said that district officials did their own homework. In public hearings before the vote, they will be sharing this information with the community, showing how accepting Seaside Heights will benefit all parties.

  One benefit, Citta has said in the past, is that the district will be able to apply for additional funding only available for districts with five or more towns.

  Toms River is one of many local districts that has been hit hard by a year-over-year cuts in state funding.

  Meanwhile, the district has made an application for stabilization aid in the amount of $8,536,146. Although this application was made in September, the district has not heard anything from the state yet.

How Many Board Members?

  The Toms River School Board is currently made up of nine elected officials. Six represent Toms River. There is one from each sending district: Beachwood, Pine Beach, and South Toms River.

  If Seaside Heights joined, they would likely get a member on the regional school board to represent them. However, that would put the board at an even number – 10. Elected boards are generally odd numbers to avoid ties. So, would that mean Toms River would gain a representative or lose one? It is unknown at this time.

  When the district was asked this question by The Toms River Times, Superintendent Citta said that if the regionalization is approved by the voters, the logistics of it would be put into play with the assistance of the State Department of Education.

  Any new member would be voted upon by residents of that town.

Central & Ocean Gate Elementary

  While Central Regional might be losing one of its constituent districts, they might take on the Ocean Gate Elementary School.

  Ocean Gate is one of five towns that send kids to Central, with the others being Island Heights, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, and of course the home district of Berkeley.

  Officials from both Central Regional and Ocean Gate Elementary have expressed interest in the two districts joining, making one district that is pre-k through 12th grade for Ocean Gate kids and 7th through 12th for everyone else.

  The Central Board recently approved going out for a feasibility study that would evaluate the “educational, financial, and operational implications of unification.”

  This study doesn’t mean that action would automatically be taken. It is just an information-gathering situation. Ultimately, this would come down to the voters. If both Central and Ocean Gate officials agree that combining is a good idea, they would ask the state to allow them to place a question on the ballot in every town impacted.

  Although Ocean Gate is specifically named, any of the sending towns are invited to join. If they are interested, they would have a seat at the table.