Madison Majors shook her ponytail up and down when asked if she was excited to start third grade today at Ocean City Primary School.
The 8-year-old from Sea Isle City previously went to Sea Isle’s elementary school, which officially closed over the summer after years of shrinking class sizes and rising-per-pupil costs.
But Madison’s mother, Anne Majors, confirmed that their family was looking forward to the transition, with more opportunities for learning and making friends.
“It’s not just the same four kids,” Anne Majors said with a laugh.
The Sea Isle City School District will now send all its public school students to Ocean City. The district taught students from kindergarten to third grade last year, but there would have been only 23 total students at its school if it remained open this year.
Some of those students’ parents opted to send them to Bishop McHugh Regional Catholic School in neighboring Dennis Township, saying they wanted to avoid a longer bus ride to Ocean City.
For the rest, Ocean City held an open house Wednesday afternoon for parents and students to get acclimated to their new surroundings and meet their new teachers.
“Change is difficult, but can be good,” said Ellen Ramsey, a member of the Sea Isle City Board of Education, as she watched parents and students pour into the elementary school on West Avenue.
It’s not as if Ocean City Primary School has not had to accept new students before. It is a choice school district, so students from outside the city, such as from Linwood, Stone Harbor and Upper Township, already go there.
Many families have also moved into their former Ocean City beach houses permanently over the years, so students from as far away as Cherry Hill and Winslow Township have had to integrate with the local kids.
Principal Joanne Walls said her first message to the students today would be for them to accept and welcome the new classmates.
“I’m going to tell them that it can be scary because it’s a new school,” she said, “but everyone should try and be nice to everybody.”
On Wednesday, Sea Isle City police Chief Thomas D’Intino was in one of the classrooms with his son, T.J., who would be going into second grade in Ocean City.
D’Intino grew up in Sea Isle City and went to school there until eighth grade before going to Ocean City High School, and he said he knew that Ocean City is a good school system.
His wife, Joanne, said she expected T.J. to easily meet new friends, but she was still a little anxious.
“She’s going to cry, no matter what,” D’Intino added, and she smiled and nodded in agreement.
Back in Sea Isle City, the school board is trying to solicit ideas from the community about what it should do with its vacant school building and property on Park Road between 45th and 46th streets.
Ramsey, who was with board members Jack Bikmeyer and Lynne Shirk in Ocean City on Wednesday, said she wants that decision left up to voters.
Parents were fond of the Sea Isle City school, and some vehemently disagreed with its closing. But Ocean City’s school does offer a number of new opportunities for students, such as its own art room and its own library, whereas those were combined with classrooms in the Sea Isle City school.
“We had a library,” 8-year-old Madison Majors explained, “but we didn’t go there.”
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