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BOE Announces Uncertain Future for St. Agnes School Early Childhood Learning Center

Susan Bonnell

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 • 11:36pm

CLARK, NJ - Despite months of preparation, the Clark Board of Education’s plan to create an early childhood learning center in the St. Agnes School building has faltered. The plan called for the relocation of the district’s Pre-K and Kindergarten classes from the Valley Road School and the Frank K. Hehnly School to the now vacant St. Agnes School property. The move was slated to occur over the summer with classes beginning in the new facility on September 4.

Although parents received a letter dated July 14, 2014 welcoming them to the new facility, the Board of Education announced at a meeting held tonight that an agreement had not yet been finalized with St. Agnes Church and the Archdiocese of Newark.

School Business Administrator David Oliveira read the following statement:

“On June 10, 2014, representatives of the Board of Education including the Board President, the Superintendent, the Business Administrator and another board member along with legal counsel met with representatives of St. Agnes Church and their legal counsel and representatives of the Archdiocese (of Newark). At that time, a verbal agreement was reached between the parties. Since that meeting, the parties have worked to reach a written agreement memorializing the terms reached at the June 10 meeting.  Much to the Board’s dismay, the Archdiocese has sent the Board an amended agreement that materially alters certain provisions agreed to at the June 10 meeting.  While the Board remains hopeful that these issues can be resolved in a timely manner, at this time we have been unable to finalize an agreement.”

Board President Lorraine Aklonis indicated that, despite a handshake agreement with the Archdiocese, the Board received notice within the last several days that certain terms of the contract had changed and were now financially unacceptable.  She indicated that the Board would reach out for another meeting with the Archdiocese within five days, understanding that a decision to move forward must be made quickly. “Time is of the essence,” she said.

During public comments, parent Jessica MacDougall addressed the Board.  “We have all been under the impression this is a done deal,” said MacDougall. “My son is so excited to go to kindergarten; he keeps saying ‘I’m going to St. Agnes.’  I had to tell him ‘You’re not going to Valley Road (School), you’re going to St. Agnes.’ To hear this is just so upsetting.  To explain this to kindergartners and pre-k is really difficult. They’re little kids, they don’t understand,” she said.

Superintendent Kenneth Knops indicated that plans could move forward if an agreement is reached within the next several days.  If an agreement cannot be finalized the classes will stay in the respective district schools.  “Either way, we’ll have a quality program in place,” Knops said.

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