The Long Beach Island consolidated school district is a K-6 elementary school district that serves the towns of Harvey Cedars, Barnegat Light, Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City. The district consists of the Long Beach Island Grade School (LBI School) in Ship Bottom and the Ethel Jacobson Elementary School (EJ School) in Surf City. The LBI School was built in 1951 and occupies land fully owned by the district. The EJ School was built in 1968 and occupies land donated by the Borough of Surf City with deed restrictions that will revert the property back to Surf City with a limited compensation to the Board.
In 2010 when the school budget was voted down, the mayors of the five served towns asked the Board of Education to commission a study to investigate consolidation from two schools to one school. The Board of Education commissioned LAN Associates, a multi-disciplined architectural engineering firm to investigate the consolidation and in 2011 their report recommended consolidation to one school at the newer EJ School site with additions to accept the additional students. The construction cost for the additions would be paid for by selling the LBI School site.
In 2015, at the recommendation of the mayors, Owen, Little and Associates, an engineering firm, was commissioned to further evaluate the condition of the two schools. Based upon the two reports the Board, at a special meeting in June 2015, presented a cost analysis of the following three scenarios:
Selling the LBI School and adding to the EJ School.
Selling the EJ School and adding to the LBI School
Repairing both schools and continuing to use two schools in the district
Due to the higher value of the LBI School property and the requirement for more extensive repairs to the older LBI School the consolidation at the EJ School site was the only scheme that, if the LBI School was sold to a developer, would not require additional funding at the time of the report.
The two professional education administrators in the district, the Superintendent and the EJ School Principal, both have stated that the consolidation to one school will be best for the students and the Education Association (teachers) also have supported the consolidation. Both of these entities have nothing to gain from consolidation and in fact one of the administrators will not be needed with one school and fewer members of the Education Association will be needed. According to the Board’s numbers the consolidation will save the district over $360,000 annually in salaries and maintenance costs.
A possible complication has arisen which affects Ship Bottom, where the LBI School is located. A good part of Ship Bottom governing body’s rejection of selling the LBI School property is due to fears that the developer of the site may be required, by New Jersey affordable housing laws to provide almost 200 affordable housing units which, it is conjectured, could be a cost burden to the Borough of Ship Bottom. To that end the governing body there has issued a resolution to the Board of Education stating that they want the LBI School to continue operating as a school facility. In the Spring of 2016 Ship Bottom, at a meeting with the Board of Education and the Mayors of the five towns that send students to the District, offered to buy the LBI School. They submitted a final bid that was considerably lower than the estimated property value. The Board also requested a resolution from the governing bodies of the five towns supporting the sale of the property to Ship Bottom. Only three of the five towns submitted resolutions.
Starting in August 2016 several cost estimates have been presented by the Board’s architects and financial consultants for construction of additions and improvements to the Ethel Jacobsen Elementary School in Surf City. Estimates have varied from $16,000,000 to the final amount of $18,353,411 to be proposed in the Referendum Questions on the ballot in the Special School Election on September 26, 2017. There will be two Bond Proposals proposed in the Special Election, one in the amount of $14,579,176 for additions to the E. J. School and one in the amount of $3,774,235 for improvements to the E. J. School.
Based upon the cost of 20 year bonds it is estimated that the annual cost to an average homeowner in the District ($600,000 assessed valuation) will be $55.00. That annual amount will be reduced by the money derived from the sale of the LBI School in Ship Bottom, the savings in operating cost from consolidation ($350,000 to $450,000 per year) and State Aid from the State of New Jersey ($1,600,000).
Ultimately the consolidation will be better educationally for the students and will save tax dollars for tax payers in the district. More information can be found on the Long Beach Island School district web-site www.lbischools.org. Click on “Referendum” and view “FAQs”.
The Harvey Cedars Taxpayers Association supports the Board of Education’s decision to consolidate to one school on the EJ School site.