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Zoning Board Approves Increased Student Enrollment at Hatikvah

The zoning board approved Hatikvah's student enrollment of 194.

The East Brunswick Zoning Board approved increased student numbers at Hatikvah International Academy Charter School, but not before giving the school a scolding for increasing their student population before getting permission.

Hatikvah received a violation on Sept. 11 of last year, penalizing them for enrolling a larger number of students than what is permitted by a zoning variance approved in 20111.

At the time, the school testified that its enrollment wouldn't go beyond 152 students due to space constraints.

At Thursday's zoning board meeting, attorney Lawrence Sachs said the school currently enrolls 194 students.

The 2011 variance contained guidelines for the school's permitted size, which was to increase one grade per year. However, the wording for the 2011-12 school year was unclear, Sachs said, which is why the school expanded.

The request before the zoning board was to permit the increased number through the end of the current school year, he said.

Board member John Mennella said the school was asking for forgiveness "after the fact," having already expanded its numbers beyond what they were permitted.

If the school didn't get a violation, it wouldn't have returned to ask for the updated variance, Minella said.

Sachs said the school was back before the zoning board in recognition of the violation and that it needed to be properly addressed.

A complaint was filed that the school was operating with the increased number, but it has not received any complaints from the township's police, fire, construction and code enforcement departments, Sachs said.

Sachs also presented two traffic engineers who provided testimony that the current parking situation at the church was comfortably handling the buses and cars that pick up and drop off students for Hatikvah.

The school's plan was to leave the Trinity Church location entirely at the end of the current school year and reopen in a larger, renovated warehouse on Lexington Avenue. After obtaining approval to do so from the zoning board, the township council overturned the decision.

Hatikvah and the owners of the Lexington Avenue property, The Eisenreich Family Foundation, have filed lawsuits protesting the council decision.

Sachs said the school does not plan to continue the use of two modular classes that currently house two third grade classes.

When asked if the school has a backup plan in light of the hurdle in its move, Sachs said that they are waiting to see what the litigation outcome will be. However, if need be, another location will be found.

"The school will not be out of business," he said.

The board unanimously voted to approve the increased student numbers, but board members Robert Volino said he was "uncomfortable" with the school's choice to expand past the numbers that the board had previously approved.

"You're using up your pass card," he said.

Board member Anthony Riccobono recused himself from the discussion due to an unspecified conflict, and did not vote.

Myrna February 23, 2013 at 05:10 AM
I'm confused. In the matter of the variance for increased enrollment, did the attorney mentioned in the article, Lawrence Sachs, represent the township zoning board or the Hatikvah school? Or both? I recall mention of a conflict of interest previously because Mr Sachs represented both the township planning board and Hatikvah.

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