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STAFFORD SCHOOL SYSTEM
Why are there no “neighborhood” elementary schools? Why is my child bussed to a school miles away when I live around the corner from an elementary school?
The Stafford School System has their schools based on age and grade level. Unlike most school systems that have their “neighborhood schools” K-6 or K-5, the children in Stafford change schools according to grade level. So a child entering the Stafford Schools may go from The Primary Learning Center to the Oxycocus School to the McKinley Ave School to the Intermediate School.
To understand this, a small history lesson of Stafford is needed. In the 1950’s Stafford was so small only one school was needed. I once spoke to one of the very few residents that actually went to the Stafford school in the ‘50’s. She told me she lived in what is now the Dear Lake Park section of Manahawkin. The school had an outhouse and she had to “hold it” every day until she got home.
What is now the Oxycocus School was a very small Brick building. Just the part that faces Rt. 9. By the 1970’s, Stafford’s population started to grow. The school became so overcrowded that by the time a new school was built, instruction was being held in the cafeteria, halls, in storage closets and in between the wind break entrance doors. There were about 35 students in each small classroom. The problem was if a new school was built, the students that went to Oxycocus would be in an old building and the students that lived in Ocean Acres would go to a new building that is now called McKinley. The education would not be equal. The money to renovate Oxycocus and build the new building would not be there.
To keep all students equal in education, all students in Stafford would go to Oxycocus from grades K -3rd and what now McKinley is from 3rd-6th. This system had a few other benefits. What is needed to educate a kindergarten student and what is needed for a 6th grader are far different. Each school would be architecturally designed for those grades and would only need supplies for those grades.
The ban on building in the Pine Barrens was again lifted and the population of Stafford sky rocketed. The same scenario occurred. Not enough classrooms for all the students. The second pod was built onto the McKinley School. Pod one housed 5th and 6th grade and pod 2 housed 3rd and 4th. As the population continued to grow, The Intermediate School was built for fifth and sixth grade.
And still the population grew. When Ocean Acres was first planned, land was set aside for an elementary school. But every time the township thought of building on the site, legal issues stopped them. By the time the Intermediate school was built, Stafford knew it had to resolve the legal issues around the Ocean Acres site. When a new school was needed the Ocean Acres site could be built upon. Along the way improvements and additions to Oxycocus were implemented.
There were other problems with building schools in Stafford. One is land the other is buses. There are no sidewalks in Ocean Acres. Students would have to walk in the streets. And no one should walk down Route 72, let alone children. So, if all children would be bussed, then let them be bussed to a school built for their grade.
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