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NJ gives Lakewood schools $8.5M to avoid massive teacher layoffs

LAKEWOOD — Just a day before students from the local public schools were set to travel to Trenton to plead their case for more funds, the Department of Education announced a “state aid advance” of $8.5 million to help fend off a financial crisis.

The Lakewood Public Schools had been facing a $15 million budget shortfall and had taken steps to drop that number at least a little before Superintendent Laura Winters sent a letter to the state requesting $10 million to help fill that gap.

Planned layoffs would include have included 106 teachers, resulting in average class sizes of 50 students per teacher.

While not granting the full amount, the state announced Tuesday night that the district would receive $8,522,678 “to ensure a thorough and efficient education for the public school students of Lakewood.”

The statement from the DOE said the funding would help reinstate 127 staff jobs, including 106 teachers, 14 basic skills teachers, and seven math and literacy coaches. It would also restore the district’s athletic programs, as well as extracurriculars like band and orchestra.

In addition, the statement said the funding will help buy new science books for the elementary schools, and help pay for one-on-one aides for students with disabilities among other items.

Prior to the announcement by the state, the district posted an announcement on its website addressing the situation.

“As a result of legitimate concern of our staff and students and so as to have an organized vehicle to express their viewpoints, we are having our history, art, and language art classes focus on our democratic values of the First Amendment rights and freedom of the press over the next few days.

Students were expected to meet with state Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean, and Mayor Raymond Coles on Wednesday before going to Trenton “to express their sentiments to the officials at the State Board of Education.”

There was no word Tuesday night whether the announcement by the state would affect plans for Wednesday.

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