BAYONNE, NJ - Former Board of Education Trustee Charles Ryan said he is very concerned about the lack of a plan to deal with the acquisition of Marist High School for use as a public school in Bayonne.
Ryan raised the issue at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, asking what they have done to accommodate a possible increase in staff and other costs associated with turning Marist into a public school.
Marist officials announced last month that the school would close as a parochial school in June.
This announcement prompted the Bayonne City Council to authorize a possible purchase of the property with the possible intent of using it as the site for a new middle school.
As previously reported, Mayor Jimmy Davis has himself suggested that the city should take a more active role in helping to modernize the local public schools, throwing out the purchase of property, or use of land at the former Military Ocean Terminal site, as possibilities his Administration would explore.
While the property has an assessed value just under $9 million, and a real value of about $20 million, city officials have said, there is no intention to take on that sort of expense. “We are looking to negotiate it down to a much lower price, City Attorney Jay Coffey assured.
If the property is to be converted to a public school, it is estimated that the facility would require about $3 million in upgrades – one of which would be the installation of an elevator in order to make the site handicap accessible.
Ryan asked the board what provisions are included in the upcoming budget to cover the cost of staffing and facilities, if the city is successful in acquiring the property for use as a school.
“Will the spending cap of two percent have to be adjusted to cover the cost?” he asked.
Board Vice President Christopher Munoz, however, encouraged Ryan to seek information from the city because it is the city taking over the school, not the Bayonne Board of Education.
“This concerns me,” Ryan said later after the meeting. “It sounds like the board has no plan in place if and when the city successfully negotiates the purchase of the building.”
The purchase of Marist could help solve a problem of providing additional classroom space, one of the central issues raised in 2019 with several BOE candidates proposing to build or reconfigure existing buildings to accommodate increased numbers of students.
“We had an issue with increased enrollment even before that state mandated new pre-k requirements,” Ryan said. “Now we have a bigger problem.”
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