No Word From DEP on Blue Acres Application to Purchase LBI Grade School

Feb 13, 2019
Ryan Morrill

The state Department of Environmental Protection isn’t ready to discuss a Green/Blue Acres application by the Long Beach Island Board of Education for the purchase of the LBI Grade School and the eventual use as a natural park.

“It’s our policy not to comment on the possible receipt of specific applications,” Caryn Shinske, public information officer for the DEP, said recently. “The general procedure when the Green Acres Program receives any application is to circulate it to the Division of Parks and Forestry, the Division of Fish and Wildlife, and the Office of Natural Lands for consideration.”

If the application is pursued by the Green Acres Program, the applicant would be notified, she said.

“There is no timeframe for review,” Shinske added.

The application was reportedly submitted to the state agency late last year as an option to help the elementary district move past the failed $18.4 million referendum. Voters in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City overwhelmingly defeated a September 2017 referendum built around expanding and renovating the Ethel A. Jacobsen School so the district could consolidate nearly 230 students into the school beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

Just last month, the board discussed whether it was prudent to take a step away from the application to the state but decided to wait it out since the 30-day window for a response was closing in. Board member John McMenamin’s motion to abandon the Green/Blue Acres option if the board did not hear back before its meeting this month failed.

Also, at last month’s meeting, the school board approved a motion to allow Frank Little, a principal in Owen, Little & Associates of Beachwood, to update the Long Beach Island School District’s Long-Range Facilities Plan as necessary.

Little is charged with developing a long-range facility plan for the LBI School because none exists. It’s tied to a funding application, should the board agree to move forward with repairing the school. The application and its documentation have an April deadline in order to be considered by the state, according to William Fenimore, board president.

“It’s a fail-safe for us,” he said at the time, noting the funding would help in case of a referendum or renovations are needed. “We want to be prepared.”

Discussion of consolidating the district’s two schools began in the spring of 2010, and a feasibility study soon followed, after which the board voted to sell the LBI School, and renovate and expand the E.J. School, in Surf City. In the almost 18 months since the referendum was shot down, board members have periodically met with municipal officials in a bid to bridge the gap many believed led to the failure of the $18.4 million project.

The next school board meeting is slated for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the media center at the LBI Grade School, 20th Street and Central Avenue in Ship Bottom.

— Gina G. Scala

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