By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
A dispute is growing between the Asbury Park school district and a new charter school scheduled to open in the city in September.
Michael Piscal, director of College Achieve Greater Asbury Park Charter School, said the Board of Adjustment in Asbury Park is still considering the school’s application for use of the First Baptist Church on Grand Avenue.
The church has previously housed the Central Jersey Christian School, which operated there for 17 years before closing in the 1970s and 80s but there are concerns that the city does not have documentation that the church has previously been used as a school.
Piscal said the use of another church at 700 Grand Ave. has been secured for the school.
He also said thus far there are 200 students enrolled. The enrollment was open to students from Asbury Park, Neptune, Long Branch, Ocean Township and Belmar.
Charter schools are part of the public school system and the city’s district has put aside about $3.2 million for tuition to the new charter school.
Tuition for each student, however, will come from their home district.
Piscal, a Toms River native and former English teacher, said plans call for putting the elementary students in one of the buildings and the middle school students in the other.
The charter school will be looking for a permanent building for subsequent years, he said.
Piscal said he believes opposition is due to public schools having a “monopoly.”
“The public school system doesn’t want competition. They have so little respect for the parents as clients,” he said.
John P. Napolitani, president of the Asbury Park Education Association, said drawing funding away from the school district will undermine the progress and programs implemented under Superintendent Dr. Lamont Repollet who is in his third year in the district.
“The superintendent has made some good strides,” he said.
Speaking of the district, which has had serious issues for many years, Napolitani said, “It took a long time to destroy and will take a long time to come back.”
He said if students start at the charter school and then decide to return to the district after Oct. 15 when enrollment figures are taken to calculate state funding, the district could lose out financially.
The fight became more personal after Napolitani sent a letter to APEA members asking them to attend the Board of Adjustment meeting July 11 and speak in support of the district. The application was not heard this week. It has been carried to the July 25 meeting.
He also told them not to patronize Langosta Lounge on the Asbury Park boardwalk because owner Marilyn Schlossbach is on the board of the charter school.
“I told them not to go there; you’re not supporting public schools, you’re supporting the charter school. It (charter school) does nothing but jeopardize the progress that’s been put in place,” he said.
Speaking of school staff Napolitani said, “They work hard in the school system and they are undermining us and taking funds out of our school system.”
The zoning board is scheduled to address the application again at its July 25 meeting.