After operating out of modular classrooms for more than a decade, Oceanside Charter School has plans to open a new $21 million facility by the end of 2014.
The school has applied to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for a $1.7 million grant to acquire the land for the project at Arctic Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The financing structure for the rest of the project has not yet been determined, but obtaining the property would help provide equity needed to approach lenders, Oceanside officials said.
The CRDA had been expected to vote on the project at today’s meeting. However, Todd D’Anna, Oceanside’s finance director, said he received word just before 5 p.m. Monday that the project had been pulled from the agenda. The nonbinding measure that had been scheduled for a board vote would not have allocated any money but would have allowed the agency to devote resources to researching the project.
“I really don’t understand what is going on. It is a political organization, so there can be all sorts of reasons for these things,” D’Anna said.
Reached Monday night, CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said she was unaware that the resolution had been removed and could not speak to the reason for the decision.
Oceanside has not had a permanent home outside the modular units at 1750 Bacharach Blvd. since its inception in 1999. An early learning program for pre-kindergarten through first grade is also run out of a church on Bishop Richard Allen Avenue.
The proposed two-story facility would be between 55,000 and 65,000 square feet. Aside from permanent classrooms, the change would allow students to have facilities such as a gymnasium for schoolwide assemblies. Oceanside currently uses nearby community buildings for large-scale gatherings, school Administrator Jeanine Middleton said.
“I feel our academic programs have always been superior, but it will be nice to have the benefit of the full facility,” Middleton said. “We have all the bells and whistles in regards to technology, but to come together and communicate our universal mission on a daily basis is important. It’s an exciting opportunity for the parents that have been committed to Oceanside for multiple children over many years.”
Several years ago, the school won a $1.9 million federal grant to turn an existing property into a school building, but Oceanside later lost the financing and plans for a new building stalled. D’Anna said several factors contributed to the school’s plans to move forward with the project now.
Next year, the school hopes to have its charter renewed, which can make for a stronger case in starting a significant project. Oceanside will also apply to the state to expand its enrollment to 450 students in pre-K through eighth grade, up from the 342 students currently enrolled.
“With inception of the Tourism District and us being on the edge, that’s also created some momentum to get us into the new building finally,” D’Anna said.
Although charter schools can purchase buildings for classroom space, state regulations preclude the schools from buying land and constructing new facilities. They also do not receive state aid for facilities. To combat that issue, a new nonprofit, Friends of Oceanside Charter School, was recently established to head the project.
The land would be purchased through the nonprofit, which would likely lease the facility to the school. All financing for the project would flow through the nonprofit, which will be headed by Donald Moore, vice president of facilities and operations at Rowan University.
Moore, who will start work at Rowan later this month, oversaw the expansion of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey over the past five years.
Traditionally, the CRDA has not funded many school projects, but school funding is not unprecedented. Last year, the CRDA agreed to help pay for the $142 million Newark Teachers Village project, a mixed-use development consisting of residential units, retail space and three charter schools.
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