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Freehold Borough officials consider acquisition of historic Court Street School

FREEHOLD – Municipal officials in Freehold Borough are examining the possibility of acquiring a historic school and preserving it as a community center.

During the Borough Council’s Sept. 21 meeting, Business Administrator Stephen Gallo gave a presentation to the members of the governing body regarding the municipality’s potential acquisition of the Court Street School and grounds at Court and Rhea streets.

Monmouth County owns the property and Gallo said discussions with representatives of the county have been taking place for nine months. The former school is operated by the Board of Trustees of the Court Street School Education Community Center under a long-term lease.

According to the Court Street School Education Community Center, the school was constructed in two phases between 1920 and 1926. Freehold Borough’s African-American children in kindergarten through eighth grade were educated at the Court Street School during a time of segregation in Freehold Borough’s public school system.

During World War II, the Court Street School served as an air raid shelter and a ration station. The building reopened in 1949 as an integrated school for kindergarten and first grade pupils. The school closed in 1974.

The former school now operates as a community education and historical center.

The Court Street School Education Community Center was formed in 1990 to restore the school for use as an education community center and to preserve it as an African-American landmark.

In 1995, following a significant effort by supporters of the local landmark, the Court Street School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gallo said if the site is acquired by Freehold Borough, the Court Street School will remain a community center.

“We will also expand its use as a community center for various programs of community groups that want to use the facility, in accordance with the rules established,” he said.

The business administrator said the historic building could be used for lectures, entertainment, educational instruction and yoga.

“Personally, I think it’s a home run, but obviously, it’s not my decision,” Gallo told members of the governing body. “The county has inquired on a fairly regular basis and has asked us if we are interested and we have reached a point where if we are interested, we should make a move.”

Gallo said obtaining the building from Monmouth County would not cost Freehold Borough anything, but he said the municipality would become responsible for its maintenance.

“It’s a free building, but it comes with obligations,” he said. “It comes with our obligation to insure it and maintain it. There would be costs involved with groundskeeping, all of which comes with owning a property. But I think it would be a useful place for the community and it would preserve forever its integrity as a historic building in the town.”

Following Gallo’s presentation, the council members voted to support a plan to move forward with acquiring the Court Street School in a straw (unofficial) poll.

Court Street School Education Community Center Secretary Kyle Warren said the discussions regarding the matter are being conducted by representatives of Monmouth County and Freehold Borough.

“The Board of Trustees of the Court Street School Education Community Center is appreciative of the support we have received through the years from Monmouth County and Freehold Borough,” Warren said. “We are excited to continue our legacy of providing educational and historic programming while engaging with members of the community of all ages.”

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