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Thursday, July 25, 2024

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Parents, Teachers Seek Reassurance Of School Survival

By Jack Fichter

West Cape May Elementary School Administrator David Lamborne had tendered his resigna-tion in favor of retirement while Cape May Elementary School’s Board of Education confirmed two teachers would lose their jobs and other employes would be reduced to four days a week. (See story at left).
Both schools are plagued by decreasing enrollment and a state cap on administrative costs. A desire to preserve idyllically small classroom sizes in two schools known for high test scores brought worried faces to both meetings, separated by a mile geographically.
In West Cape May:
PTA member Cindy Smilyk suggested a committee of parents and teachers be formed, so par-ents could be involved as the school “goes through changes.”  She said she heard gossip in the community that the school was closing or the Pre-K or kindergarten programs were being eliminated.
“Everyone is committed to keeping the school here,” said Parent Dorrie Brian.
She endorsed sharing a chief school administrator with another school to cut costs.
Board of Education President Irene Hober said that option existed before Lamborne was hired, but the board wanted the presence of a chief school administrator in the building “all the time.”
Parent Joe Lotozo said the perception of not knowing if the school will remain open is a deter-rent to new families moving into West Cape May.
“Is it inevitable?” he asked. “No one will want to live here.”
“We don’t feel this is inevitable,” answered Hober.
“If the school goes, we’ll have a vacant tourist town,” said Lotozo.
Board of Education member Jerry Reeves noted the school’s third and fourth graders tested at or near the top in state tests for math and reading. He said the highest ranked student at the Lower Cape Mayt Regional High School was a graduate of West Cape May Elementary School.
 IN CAPE MAY:
Parent Jennifer Rush told the board she found the school losing half of its PACE program for gifted students “completely unacceptable.” She suggested the PACE program be maintained on a full-time basis by raising lunch prices or making cuts elsewhere.
Rush questioned cutting programs and staff before this year’s budget is set and approved or disapproved by voters.
“I say ‘go to the slaughterhouse fat,'” said Rush.
She also questioned reducing physical education in a time when educators recognize obesity in children as a problem. Rush said a part of the reason that Coast Guard families come to Cape May is because of the school.
“This town has already priced itself out being a family town for the people that come and live here,” she said. “What you’re finding with this kind of enrollment is you have Coast Guard kids, Section 8 housing kids, and a smattering of town’s people.”
Rush said she would hate to see what would happen when the Coast Guard gets word “that Cape May City School is driving its bus down the road towards a tree because they are going to start jumping ship”
“If you are going to lose the school, just do it,” said Rush. “Quit picking at the scab and rip that bandage off and be done with it.”
Board member Deborah Smith said she attended a shared services meeting three weeks ago with the chief school administrators, business administrators, and two school board members each from Cape May, West Cape May, and Lower Township. She said the board was aware they had an enrollment problem last September.
Board Solicitor Robert Fineberg commented that rising property values in resort islands throughout the county were causing school populations to drop dramatically.
Contact Fichter at (609) 886-8600 Ext 30 or jfichter@cmcherald.com

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