The administration team of Barnegat Township Public Schools says it's come up with a way to maximize the efficiency of their staff, improve the consistency of instruction and eliminate middle school anxiety among students.

Concerned parents say the district's plan is not the best way to achieve those goals, and will likely result in more stress for their kids and higher costs overall.

"This was just dropped in our laps," said Barnegat resident Tracy Sutton, whose daughter is in the third grade. "I feel like they've taken away our right as parents to have a say in our children's education and their educational experience. There's no open line of communication. There's no transparency."

Sutton launched an online petition that's garnered more than 950 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. Those who've signed are attempting to overrule a restructuring plan put forth by the district in a letter dated March 4.

Under the new configuration, students would switch schools every two years, from Pre-K through eighth grade. The "middle school" would be eliminated, although the building would still be used for seventh and eighth grades. The plan is to launch the new model in September.

"While we understand this model creates more transitions for the students and eliminates singular school communities, the benefits to this new structure of the district far outweigh the setbacks," the letter to parents said.

The letter said the plan would be executed "following a transportation review." The district held a reconfiguration meeting on March 14 to address parents' concerns.

Students in the district are not bussed to school, Sutton said. With the new configuration grouping students by grade instead of neighborhood, Sutton said there are concerns over added transportation costs.

Sutton said "something needs to be done" in order to improve the education of Barnegat's students, "but we need to come up with a better plan."

Sutton said she hasn't yet decided what she'd do with the online petition, which has a goal of 1,500 signatures.

A sample of comments by those who've signed the petition:

"I don't like the idea of my child having to change school every two years. It's unnecessary and will create too much anxiety with each transition. I also don't like that my child will be further away from home for no reason. I have not seen or heard any reason thus far as to why this is necessary." — Julie F.

"This redistricting plan is insane. I want this plan to be put on a referendum so the people of Barnegat can vote on it!" — Lawrence W.

"Barnegat is a small school district with neighborhood schools K-5 and this is why people move here. This plan will destroy a sense of security, community, and family that most want for their children. We have something very special in Barnegat and this change will destroy it!!!!" — Christya Q.

"The people of this town have spoken. Nobody wants this and it should not have even been a thought without discussions and votes from the parents and taxpayers of Barnegat. Put a stop to this ASAP." — Ann K.

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