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Overcrowded Schools Issue at Belleville School Board, Council Meetings

Belleville Board of Education and Township Council talk with residents about influx of kindergartners in School No. 10, and officials say steps will be taken to ease crowding.

 

The population is up in Belleville schools, especially in kindergarten and middle schools, school officials said.

Joseph Longo, a three-term school board member, said, "Enrollment figures are up in certain schools, in specific grades, but we're working to deal with it. We need to take a couple of weeks to let the dust settle."

Schools officials reported that the nine schools totaled 4,646 students in May, and increased to 4,677 students in September.

The issue of school overcrowding was brought up at this week’s Board of Education meeting.

School board leaders discussed where the population jumps are, whether a school property should be sold for development and whether anything can be done about students living illegally in multi-family apartments.

Longo said things could change in the next few weeks – some students may not stay in the district, others may not be able to produce proof of residency or needed documentation.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Picardo said at the meeting that the district will wait the few weeks until things settle down to make any final decisions.

"We will know then if changes are needed in staffing," Longo said. "We always have contingency plans in place. This is not unusual."

Despite Longo's reassurances, residents expressed concern at Tuesday's town council meeting.

Several residents said kindergarten enrollment is exploding at some schools.

Councilman Steven Rovell's wife Susan is the principal at School No. 10, and he offered his opinion about where the increases are highest.

"No. 10 has increased, and most of the new students are above Washington Avenue," Rovell said. "There is also a big increase in the middle school."

Rovell spoke after a few residents said School No. 1 in the Valley section below Washington Avenue should be kept because of a need caused by overcrowding.

The school property may soon be demolished and is scheduled for redevelopment.

Rovell said that some sixth graders may be moved to the middle school, since state school officials now consider middle school to be grades six through eight.

Other residents talked about how many homes have multi-generations living in one home, which also increases the population of the schools.

When residents started complaining about students living in illegal multi-family apartments, Councilman Kevin Kennedy said the council passed an ordinance a few years ago that limits the number of people allowed in one household.

"Call the Construction Code Official and report it," Kennedy said angrily. "It's easy to say there are 14 people living in an apartment."

Mayor Raymond Kimble reminded residents that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits officials from checking the number of occupants in one dwelling.

“You can’t just knock on their door,” Kimble said. 

School No. 4 parent Santos Rodriguez, Jr. spoke about speeding cars near schools at the beginning of the school year at the council meeting. 

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