Port Norris School

Commercial Township fifth-grader Grant Loatman, 11, explains the display of old maps of the Port Norris area hung on a clothes rack for the Port Norris School’s history night.

The Commercial Township school district, which lost nearly $1 million in state aid this year, will see that money come back into its coffers because of emergency aid announced recently by the Department of Education.

The township was among a handful of local districts that received the funding, including Longport at $12,145, Woodbine at $40,977 and Bass River Township at $31,195.

“We were expecting to receive back some of the funding but not as much as we are gratefully pleased to have gotten back,” said Commercial Township interim Superintendent Jean Smith.

The loss of school aid had prompted districts in Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic counties to turn to state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who just won a bid to fill outgoing Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s seat in Congress.

Van Drew announced Thursday he had followed through on his promise to bring Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet to the southern end of the state to see the districts the budget deemed “overfunded,” including Commercial Township.

“I want to thank Commissioner Repollet in advance for taking the time next month to participate in the roundtables in South Jersey to talk about the new school funding formula and to hear the concerns and questions local officials have about it,” said Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic. “I have been making this request that he come down to the 1st Legislative District for a few months now, so I am glad that he is willing to have a conversation about the new formula with public school officials.”

Repollet is scheduled to visit both the Haleyville-Mauricetown Elementary School in Cumberland County and Wildwood High School in Cape May County on Dec. 10, and meet with school administrators, school board presidents and superintendents to discuss the new school funding formula.

The loss in funding for the local schools will continue to build for some districts as a result of the new school funding formula law, which was proposed by Senate President Steve Sweeney and signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in July. The law eliminated growth caps and phases out adjustment aid, which many of the overfunded districts have received for the past decade.

Districts that lost funding were instructed to apply to the state for emergency aid. Department of Education spokesman Michael Yaple said $6.8 million in emergency aid was approved late last week for 13 districts.

Smith said Thursday the additional funds will be used to restore five teaching positions that were eliminated this year as a result of the aid cut, as well as make some “much-needed repairs” and add money to the district’s maintenance reserve.

She said she was thankful to the senator and the commissioner for coming to visit her district.

“We hope to highlight some of the successes that we’ve had as well as show them the need that we have for the funding that was restored,” Smith said.

Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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