WEST WILDWOOD - Tensions are calming after a recent study that explored changing the school where West Wildwood students are sent angered many local parents (https://bit.ly/3lQJeTL).
The study, commissioned by West Wildwood School Board and conducted by Stockton University, examined the possibility of sending West Wildwood students to Glenwood Avenue School and Wildwood Middle School, Wildwood’s public schools, instead of Margaret Mace School, the North Wildwood public school the students currently attend through eighth grade.
West Wildwood is one of the 13 non-operating school districts in the state.
Parents were assured students will remain in Margaret Mace, at least through the 2021-2022 school year.
“No one wants to leave North Wildwood; this was all financial driven,” Judson Moore, school board administrator, West Wildwood, acknowledged, in an interview.
“We have to be upfront with the taxpayers and say, look, at this point in time, we’re paying $9,000 more per student,” he said.
The study revealed the switch would save $177,118 per year, but the release of its findings angered some parents, who said their children were happier and receiving a better education at Margaret Mace.
Moore said a school board meeting attended by parents March 8 was calmer and friendlier than he expected. He urged parents, who originally criticized the board’s transparency, to provide feedback leading up to or at the meeting.
Samantha Haws, a West Wildwood resident and mother of three Margaret Mace students, said she handed Moore close to 70 petitions opposed to changing schools at the meeting.
“Wildwood has good standards, as well. Are there more benefits perhaps to North Wildwood? Yeah. There’s nobody disagreeing with that,” Moore said, in an interview.
Wildwood Superintendent J. Kenyon Kummings told the Herald in a statement that his board is aware of the study.
“Since the release of the study, Wildwood Public Schools have not been formally approached by West Wildwood School District as to whether or not our district is interested in engaging in an expanded send/receive agreement beyond that of what is already in place for high school.”
After completing Margaret Mace after eighth grade, all North Wildwood and West Wildwood students go to Wildwood High School.
Haws told the Herald she left the West Wildwood School Board meeting feeling better than she did going in.
“I don’t believe it until I see it in black and white, but I definitely feel more reassured and comfortable that it’s going the right way,” Haws said.
Jennifer Sibiga, another West Wildwood resident and Margaret Mace parent, pointed to specific benefits of Margaret Mace, citing page numbers from the study for the school board.
“The board recognized that. They saw it. They realized it. The bottom line is it boils down to the money aspect,” Haws said.
“Three years ago, we built a house, and I never would have built a house in West Wildwood if I would have known our school system wasn’t North Wildwood. We built it before my son started kindergarten because we knew Margaret Mace was the school,” Spiga later said, in an interview.
The board plans to use the study to try to help leverage a tuition discount from the North Wildwood School Board.
Moore said he requested a meeting with North Wildwood School District, and he and April Howard, a West Wildwood School Board member and schoolteacher in Wildwood’s district, met with North Wildwood’s superintendent, board president and school administrator in late February.
He said they made some concessions, and he wants to meet again in April or May to continue discussions ahead of next year’s budget.
North Wildwood Superintendent Christopher Armstrong did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“They don’t want to lose us. We don’t want to lose them, but they have to do something about the price,” Moore said.
To contact Shay Roddy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.