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Watson Coleman, Jasey & Giblin to Tighten School Closure Procedures in a State-Run District Gets Assembly OK

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Bonnie Watson Coleman, Mila Jasey and Thomas Giblin that would tighten procedures for closing a school that is under state control was OK’d Monday by the Assembly.
The bill was prompted by a proposal in the Newark Public Schools to reorganize the district, including closing some schools. Newark is currently under state control and the district superintendent is state-appointed and state-approved. The proposal has met opposition from some residents and school officials who argue that the reorganization will have a negative impact on children and communities.
“Closing a school, no matter how-well intentioned the decision might be, is disruptive. The fact that such a decision can be made without the consultation of the school board charged with overseeing the school is disconcerting,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This bill helps ensure the decision to close a school is well vetted and carried out with the best interest of students in mind.”
“The decision to shutter a school is an extremely drastic one and should be made only following careful consideration of the impact upon students, their families and the community,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “The last thing we want to do is create a situation that is counterproductive to students and problematic for their parents.”
“Closing a school that has long been part of a community is not just emotionally tolling, but problematic if the potential drawbacks outweigh the merits,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “It is vital that we do our due diligence and ensure a smooth transition that will not hurt our students.”
Under the bill, the state district superintendent would be required to present the school closing application to the board of education at a public meeting, and the application must be noted in the minutes of the meeting, before the state district superintendent submits the application to the state education commissioner.
The bill will now be referred to the Senate for final legislative consideration.