By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
A second location for the College Achieve Asbury Park Charter School Asbury Park was approved at this week’ s Board of Adjustment meeting.
The school opened its doors at 700 Grand Ave. in September but has been seeking approval since June to open its other location in the First Baptist Church at Third and Grand Avenues.
The application was approved by a five to one vote with board member Daniel Harris casting the lone vote.
School Director Michael Piscal said he was very happy and hoped to move 105 of the students to the new location on Jan. 8.
Before the vote Attorney Jack Serpico asked board members to present a list of conditions for approving the move. Each voiced what conditions they would agree to including: an attractive privacy fence between the church parking lot which will be used by staff, and the next door neighbor; adding signage regarding parking during pick up and drop off; limits to overlapping church and school events; delivery times for school meals and supplies and guidelines for trash storage and disposal.
Piscal said he would have to review the conditions before opening at the new location.
Months of testimony from planners, attorneys, fire officials and police officers focused on the use of the building as a school, impact on neighboring homes, safety of the children and traffic concerns related to the dropping off and picking up of students.
Concerns about traffic were addressed Tuesday night by Traffic Unit Police Officers Ahmed Lawson and William Reng who testified at the meeting.
Both officers oversaw the opening of the school at its Grand Avenue location and both testified that after making a few recommendations to amend the flow of traffic, the school’s drop off and pick up times have since run smoothly.
They also expressed confidence that drop off and pick up would become routine as with all other schools in the district.
“I don’t think it will be a problem,” Reng said. “There is a learning curve at first, people are not sure where to go, but now everybody has their routine down.”
Board Member Brittany Ashman asked if the officers were concerned about the bike lane on Grand Avenue, which is the only one in the city.
Officers said he did not foresee any difficulties saying cars, people and bicycles regularly share the use of city streets throughout town.
Officer Lawson said residents, drivers and pedestrians have to make do when a school is located in a city.
“M’am you have other schools (in the city), they have to make do during those times,” he said.
Officer Reng said, “In a city atmosphere residences are in a neighborhood next to schools, same as other cities,” he said.
John Miller, an attorney representing the Neptune Township Board of Education, submitted a letter to the board stating that because students from Neptune are attending the school the board has a right to be concerned for their safety and education.
Andrew Karas, attorney for the charter school, objected to Miller being allowed to testify on the grounds that the Neptune Township Board of Education is a competitor of his client and has a monetary concern.
Pastor John Helm of the First Baptist Church said he is looking forward to having the school operating in his church. Helm was the pastor in the 1980s and 90s when the Central Jersey Christian School operated in the church.
He said the building is perfectly set up for a school and said it offered parents and guardians a choice of where to send their children to school.
“People who would like to have a choice but don’t have the money to afford another choice,” he said.
Helm said the church has the capacity to hold up to 350 students.
Regarding concerns about the effects on the neighborhood, Helm said having the school there would be an improvement.
He said in the past there was a “huge drug problem.”
“Changes to the neighborhood are better…as people would want to send their kids to this area,” he said.
Board Member Russell Simmons echoed that view to neighbor Stefan Ascham saying, “There’s nothing that’s going to make drug dealers stay away than a bunch of school children.”