RARITAN, NJ - Two groups that utilize school facilities in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District are seeking monetary relief.
Members of both an (Indian) Sunday school and a Chinese language school that separately utilize academic buildings in the district spoke before the Bridgewater-Raritan board of education in December to ask the board for its assistance with the fees owed for space rental.
N.K. Shankar, a teacher at the Sunday school he said is held at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, spoke during the public portion of the board meeting, and called it “an excellent school system.” He stated his school places an emphasis on academic excellence, good values and service.
He also said that the number of classes has been reduced, with some classes having to be combined, as the school is largely supported by donations and volunteers.
“I just wanted you to know,” he said.
Parent Meena Shankar said her daughter graduated from the Sunday school, won a presidential award and also performed community service both locally and in India, employing values she learned at the school on a weekly basis. She said that with increased rental fees, however, the school has had to combine classes or curb activities, resulting in situations such as yoga classes having to be performed in school hallways.
“We’ve had to make changes that have affected children and adults alike,” she said.
Jessica Li, principal of a non-profit Chinese language school that also uses Bridgewater-Raritan’s school buildings, said her institution serves the community through excellence in its educational programs, and also through community service. She added that the school, which she said has been in New Jersey for 15 years, also contributes to local diversity, but that a tuition increase has led to a decrease in enrollment, while the district’s rental fees are also taking a toll.
Li said classroom rental fees have increased 400 percent, while gymnasium rental fees have gone up 500 to 700 percent. Her school is also facing competition from other schools.
“We’ve been forced to merge classes, and cut off some activities,” she said. “We’re still facing large financial problems.”
She said she chose to appear before the board on behalf of her students and their families. She added that tuition costs could not overcome the rental fee increases, and she asked the board to reconsider the fees so that her school could remain operational in Bridgewater.
Jun Li, a volunteer at the Chinese language school, said she has had two children attend that institution, with her son having graduated last year. She added that the school boasts strong programs, and also gives back to the community, and that there is“a great opportunity to keep the school running.”
Wei Wei Yu said she had taught in Bridgewater at the Chinese school for a decade, and that her own children also attended the school. She said she doesn't want to see the school “disappear,” and asked the board to look at lowering the rental costs.
Members of the Bridgewater-Raritan school board did not respond publicly to any of the speakers, about either school or its situation.