Middlesex County has a selection of charter schools currently operating, including Greater Brunswick Charter School in New Brunswick, Academy for Urban Leadership Charter School in Perth Amboy, and East Brunswick's Hatikvah International Academy Charter School.
Hatikvah, a Hebrew dual-language school, has been renting space behind the Trinity Presbyterian Church on Cranbury Road since it opened in 2010.
Before it opened its doors it met resistance from the school district. But in 2011, a decision by the State Superior Court Appellate Division put the issue to rest by saying that the district's final appeal, which was based on enrollment, didn't hold up.
Located in two trailers, the school has recently had trouble with a growing enrollment. In September, Gregory Potkulski, director of the township Department of Planning and Engineering, sent the school a letter stating that its enrollment currently exceeds the 152 limit set in a use variance granted the school on July 7, 2011.
To create more space, and to find a permanent home, the school began a search for a new location and settled on 7 Lexington Ave., located in a planned industrial area. In July it unanimously received a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to allow it to renovate a 557,379-square-foot warehouse into a school.
However, a month later residents Deborah Cornavaca and Christine Rampolla filed an appeal of the variance, which would be heard by the Township Council. The appeal stated, among other reasons, that the variance should not have been granted because “there was a conflict of interest,” and that “the board did not permit a complete record to be made.” The appeal also stated “the applicant failed to show that the relief can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good,” and “the applicant failed to show that the relief sought will not substantially impair the intent and purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance.”
On Monday, Jan. 14, the Township Council agreed and overturned the zoning board decision. The next day, school officials announced that they would appeal the decision with the Superior Court.
New Brunswick and Highland Park saw similar discussions in 2011 for the Tikun Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School, proposed by a group of Highland Park residents.
The application was met with opposition by residents of New Brunswick and Highland Park, who argued that the application was flawed and the school would detract funds from other public schools in the city and borough.
The school's application has not been approved.
Given the local discussions that have happened in the last two years about charter schools, do you think that they have a lasting role in the county's education system? What aspects of charter education works and what doesn't? Is charter school conversation too politicized? Tell us in the comments below.