OLD BRIDGE – A shared service agreement with a neighboring school district will soon bring new life to Cheesequake Elementary School in Old Bridge, which closed its doors last school year.
The Old Bridge Board of Education, through a resolution, unanimously approved a 10-year shared services agreement with Sayreville for the lease of the building during a meeting on Feb. 18. The agreement is subject to written approval from the New Jersey Department of Education.
Board member Lisa Lent was not present for the vote.
Old Bridge Schools Superintendent David Cittadino has said the district is not losing ownership of its former elementary school. Instead, the Sayreville Board of Education will be responsible for maintaining the building, insurance and retention of the Cheesequake name, according to the agreement.
The Sayreville Board of Education will lease the school at an annual rent of $500,000 over a 10-year period – July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2030. The board expressed an interest in leasing the building and property for the operation of an early childhood educational program.
Sayreville Schools Superintendent Richard Labbe said the district is going to use the building to educate about 320 preschool students.
“We are thrilled and very excited to begin educating our preschoolers in what we consider to be a perfect home for our new Project Before at Cheesequake School program,” he said.
Cittadino said the deal with Sayreville Public Schools will provide Old Bridge schools with desperately needed revenue on the heels of the New Jersey Senate legislation that reduces in excess $15 million dollars in state aid from their district classrooms over a seven-year period.
“The deal with our neighbors in Sayreville is a 10-year lease, which is more advantageous for the Old Bridge School District and our taxpayers,” he said. “In most instances, revenue from a sale can only offset the loss in state aid for the one year we receive the revenue. A lease allows us to realize the $500,000 in revenue to be incorporated into the general fund every year for 10 years totaling $5 million dollars.”
Cittadino said Sayreville officials met Old Bridge officials at Cheesequake School on Dec. 20 as a follow-up to a brief conversation with Labbe on Dec. 16 about the possibility of a shared service agreement. Negotiations continued through the new year until mid-January.
The grim news of potential cuts as a result of the reduction in state aid become reality in 2019 – Cheesequake Elementary School closed, which saves the district $750,000 in operation costs, and some 85-plus positions had been cut from the 2019-20 school budget.
The Old Bridge Township School District received state approval at the end of May 2019 to close Cheesequake, one of 12 elementary schools in the district.