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Sea Isle's former public school was closed in 2012 due to declining student enrollment. Students are now sent to other school districts, including Ocean City.

By Maddy Vitale

A “big decision” lies ahead for Sea Isle residents and city officials over whether to renovate or demolish the old school to transform the site into a community recreation center.

“There is a big decision the community will have to make,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said.

A 10-member study committee issued a report in May recommending redevelopment of the property into a community recreation complex. The estimated cost of a new building which would include a gym and indoor pool would be about $17 million.

The committee also studied the possibility of renovating the former school, located at Park Road between 45th and 46th streets. The price for that option would be about $2 million and include a new gym, handicap-accessible bathrooms and other improvements.

Savastano gave a brief update on the proposed project during the Aug. 28 City Council meeting in response to a question from the public about the status of the school’s redevelopment plan.

“No decisions have been made,” he said. “The Council and mayor look forward to discussing it with the public.”

Sea Isle City Business Administrator George Savastano, pictured with Public Information Officer Katherine Custer, says there is no time frame for when a decision will be made.

Savastano gave no timetable for when the decision would be made but emphasized that there would be a discussion with the public.

He also noted the decision is coming down to several factors. The public and city officials have to determine if it would be better to build new or more cost effective to renovate.

The dilemma of keeping the old structure is that if the renovations were to cost more than 50 percent of the building’s value, it would have to be brought up to existing flood standards, officials said.

While the committee has recommended building a new recreation facility, Mayor Leonard Desiderio has said he wants taxpayers closely involved with the decision since they would “foot the bill.”

Officials said a series of public hearings to hear community input would play a major role in the decision-making. Both Desiderio and Councilwoman Mary Tighe have said that any discussion about the project will include a detailed cost analysis, including the implications on the local tax rate.

The school was built in 1971. It was closed in 2012 due to declining student enrollment. Sea Isle now sends its students to outside school districts for their education.   

Mayor Leonard Desiderio says he wants the public to have their say on the school property.