WOOD-RIDGE, NJ - Resident concerns from the Wood-Ridge Board of Education meeting on Monday evening carried over to the Borough Council meeting on Wednesday evening.
Longtime Wood-Ridge resident Jerry Caputo addressed the Council and Mayor with his concerns over closing the Pre K3 currently being offered. Caputo began with a question to the Mayor concerning discussions between the Board of Education and Mayor and Council with regards to the impact of population growth coming from the development of Wesmont Station.
Sarlo, after asking (jokingly) if student Mayor Ryan Connelly wanted to handle the question, stated that “he could not speak” to what happened at the Board of Education meeting or the Board of Education budget, he did have some numbers to share.
Sarlo stated that in 2011, before anyone moved into the Wesmont Station development, there were 1213 students in the Wood-Ridge school system, grades K-12. For the 2018-19 school year, there are 1222 students, an increase of nine students. Further, Sarlo stated, while the numbers have had peaks and valleys, the increase from what he referred to as “Wood-Ridge base.” (Wood-Ridge without the new townhomes in Wesmont Station.)
“The growth has come as the population has turned over,” Sarlo stated. “Older residents have left and been replaced by younger families with children. “
Additionally, Sarlo noted that the school district took over the Assumption School and created the Intermediate School, which added classroom space to the Wood-Ridge system. Sarlo discounted that the schools were overcrowded, noting that they only had nine more students, yet had an extra school to absorb those bodies.
Caputo noted that Pre-K3 and Pre-K4 education is said to be very helpful for children, and that the town should be providing for the future of Wood-Ridge by insuring that they get the best education. Sarlo agreed, but noted that Pre-K3 and Pre-K4 education is not something that is fully funded for non-Abbott district towns, and that there are monetary considerations.
Sarlo also noted, that from his understanding, the rising cost of special education, which is guaranteed to be fully funded under NJ State regulations, is cutting into the school’s budget as well. He also noted, that the Council does not control the school budget, and how it is spent, the Board of Education does.
After Caputo was finished, Board of Education President Albie Nieves spoke briefly to the Council, noting that he was unable to make the BOE meeting, due to being with the school at another function. The reason for the early meeting on Monday (5 pm) which had originally caught Caputo’s attention, was due to the fact that the BOE Budget, at a summary level, was due to be submitted to the County for review by Wednesday.
During the second hearing of citizens. Melissa Crews, addressed the Council, contesting Sarlo’s earlier contention that classroom space was an issue, and invited Sarlo and/or any council members to tour the Doyle School to see if there was space not being utilized.
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