A few months ago news broke about the chaos at Asbury Park High School, now serving grades 7-12 because district-wide enrollment has dropped to 1,358 students. The 2022-2023 school year began with the high school varsity football scandal, when too many team members were deemed academically ineligible to play and the Blue Bishops had to forfeit their first game. Over time we learned about lowered standards (currently nine out of ten students fail the Algebra 1 test), a fixation on school uniforms, and the district’s failure to comply with services mandated for students with disabilities.
Here is a list of what it’s like right now to be a student or teacher in Asbury High School, where the semester ends today. This list comes from inside sources who will remain anonymous.
- Three high school biology courses and three environmental science courses (five credits each) have had no related instruction since September 2022 or any consistent substitute teacher. Instead, students sit in the auditorium and watch movies. One was “Lean on Me.” The teacher supervising the students hasn’t received a roster of who is in each class.
- Asbury Park High School offers six Allied Health courses to prepare students for licensing and credits from Rutgers University. There has been no teacher since December 1st.
- Asbury Park Schools District is “sorely lacking” in special education teachers, in part because the special education teachers on staff have been assigned to general education classes.
- Students who lose credits due to chronic absenteeism (according to the state database, the chronic absenteeism rate at Asbury Park High School —missing more than 10% of school days)—is 59.8%) are now told not to go to continue to attend those courses but to go to the Media Center to complete the courses online. They can do this in three days and then receive full credit for the course. Some of these students are classified for special education or as English Language Learners. This practice, I’ve been told, constitutes a violation of their mandated programming.
- When Asbury first announced that the district high school would now serve as a middle school too, due to lack of enrollment, parents were told middle school students (7th and 8th grades) would be separated from high school students (9th-12th grade). At a subsequent PTO meeting, Board of Education members told parents that 7th-8th grade students would be sequestered on the second floor of Asbury Park High School. “This is a lie,” says a source. “The second floor has a mix of all students in grades 7-12. There is no separation in hallways, gym, bathrooms, offices, dismissal, and buses.”
- Also, all students, grades 7-12, have physical education together for 80-minute classes. Gym teachers have been told to work with the younger students for 40 minutes while older students sit in the bleachers or in the cafeteria and then rotate in the older students for the last 40 minutes while the younger students sit. “These students ages 12-20+ are in the same gym at the same time…Fights break out, students cut class, and 7th-12th graders are all mixed up.”
- There is a “baby gate” set up in the hallway near the gym near the (new) Athletic Director’s office because he complained about the noise from all the students forced to sit in the bleachers.
- Students who fail to wear their school uniforms are given in-school detention. If they continue to not wear uniforms they move to full-day in-school suspension (in the Media Center, grades 7-12). Students have been given three shirts if an application citing financial need was completed by their parents or guardians. Yet some don’t have access to laundromats and “are shamed for not wearing the uniform.” Sometimes there are as many as 400 students in one day on detention lists for not wearing the uniform.
- Throughout the district, some students classified for special education have not received occupational therapy mandated in their IEP’s since April 2022 and speech therapy since June 2022. “The violence, behaviors, cutting, failing grades, special education needs, and referrals continue to increase but there is no one there to assist.”