Beginning Tuesday Feb. 6, Toms River Regional Schools will host a series of Town Hall-style meetings at each of its 18 schools. The meetings, which will run through March 27, will enable the school district to present information about its Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) and Referendum projects, and allow for questions and comments from school families and community members.
The first sessions were held 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Silver Bay Elementary and 8 to 9 p.m. at High School North. The full calendar of Town Hall meetings is available on the Referendum page of the district’s website.
In 2013 the Toms River Board of Education commissioned an independent firm to conduct a community needs survey, which among the uncovered essentials noted a need for significant facilities upgrades. In response the district conducted a comprehensive facilities assessment at each of its 23 buildings-- 18 schools and five outbuildings-- which revealed an estimated $160 million worth of necessary upgrades and improvements.
The district-- which, despite being one of the most financially efficient large districts in the state, is operating at $31 million under adequacy-- has sought to meet its structural needs with the least impact to taxpayers. In August 2017, Toms River Schools announced approval of the team of Maser, DCO Energy and CDI to implement the capital improvement ESIP project to enhance infrastructure in the district. The self-funding ESIP will provide $17.8 million in budget-neutral upgrades.
The district is hoping that a fall 2018 bond referendum will help support the remainder of priority projects, and will utilize these school-based meetings to share its plans and receive valuable feedback in order to craft the best possible proposal.
“These Town Hall meetings represent a necessary next step and continuum of years-long, concerted efforts to undertake much-needed facilities improvements across the district, at minimal cost to taxpayers,” said Superintendent David Healy. “We cannot continue to effectively sustain our efforts in essentially bandaging multiple infrastructure issues that are outdated, have far exceeded their life expectancy and continue to strain the staff and resources of our school district. We are genuinely excited that, after years of planning and preparation, we’re getting down to the business of actually addressing these needs, which will drastically improve the educational experience for our students.”
The public Town Hall meetings will be led by Healy, Business Administrator William Doering, and participating board members. In addition to the needs relative to the school hosting each meeting, discussions will also focus on its feeder schools. For example, the meeting at South Toms River Elementary (3/1) will highlight its structural needs, as well as those of Intermediate South and High School South.
Among the topics to be presented and discussed are plans to improve parking lots district-wide; school-specific upgrades such as instructional spaces including secondary science labs, heating and ventilation systems, energy-efficient LED lighting, and restrooms; and efforts to improve playgrounds at the elementary level, with more accessibility for disabled students.
“Facilities improvements and upgrades have remained a primary school board goal, and we’ve been working over the course of months and years to thoughtfully develop a plan to improve our infrastructure in a way that’s economically feasible, efficient, and sustainable,” said School Board President Russell K. Corby. “We’re looking forward to meeting with the public to discuss this plan, hear their input, and work together for the betterment of this district now and into the future.”
More information about Toms River Regional Schools ESIP program, including the board-approved ESIP plan and the full calendar of Town Hall meetings, can be found on the ESIP page of the district website. More information about the referendum and the district’s facilities improvement initiative can be found on the Referendum page of the district website.