Ocean County Press Release
TOMS RIVER - A partnership of public and private entities has teamed up to fund a new vocational technical performing arts academy that will be located on the Ocean County College campus here.
"The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders has always made educational opportunities for our citizens a priority," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Vocational Technical School district. "This partnership will allow us to create and provide a state-of-the art performing arts academy to be used by our vo-tech students and our Ocean County College students.
"This is being done at a time when the arts are becoming more and more relevant," Vicari said. "This academy will provide a top-notch education for future leaders here in Ocean County."
The Freeholders joined with representatives from the college, the vo-tech schools and the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation during the board's June 14 preboard meeting to talk about the new academy and the partnership that is resulting in its funding.
Under the partnership, the state of New Jersey will provide $10.6 million or 40 percent of the construction cost. The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation will contribute $8 million and the Board of Freeholders will provide $8 million toward the cost. Ocean County College will make available an allocation of $2 million that could be used to pay down future interest costs if necessary.
Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the college, said the County would float the bond for the construction of the academy leaving the college with no direct debt.
"We could not have made this happen without the generosity of the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation," Bartlett said. "With the help of the foundation and the state's contribution, we can provide the $8 million from the freeholders.
"The location at the college also is beneficial since the infrastructure already is in place," he said.
The OCVTS Performing Arts Academy is one of the three academies within the vocational-technical school district. It currently is located at Hangar I of Navy Lakehurst which is part of Joint Base – McGuire, Dix, Lakehurst.
"Our lease with the base will be up soon," Bartlett said. "We needed to make a decision as to what to do. This plan works for everyone and especially for our students."
The mission of the Performing Arts Academy is to provide an academically challenging education for creatively gifted high school students.
Enhanced performing arts training will empower graduates with the practical skills for higher education and/or a professional career in the arts. The academy offers four majors: theater, vocal, dance and audio engineering.
"The curriculum is rigorous and the students are expected to think critically and creatively," said OCVTS Superintendent William Hoey. "This new academy will benefit both the high school and college students. We will be sharing the classroom space and can use the other amenities at the college.
"We are beyond excited," he said. "The students will be ecstatic as will their parents. This is a win-win for all of us."
The Performing Arts Academy offers College Prep, Honors, AP, and College level classes. Global digital technology skills are infused into all academic areas. Students are expected to achieve 160 credits.
OCC College President Dr. Jon Larson said by locating the new academy on the college campus students will be accessing college courses and all the amenities of the college like its library, student center and the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts.
"Once they complete the academy curriculum, students will be awarded OCC's associate degree and will be half way to a bachelor's degree – all for a fraction of the tuition cost of a university degree," Larson said. "This is just one of the many benefits that comes from this partnership."
The Performing Arts Academy is currently in the design phase and once completed is expected to be about 50,000 square feet and will be located at the college entrance near the theater.
"On behalf of Linda and myself and Jeremy and the entire Foundation, we are so proud to support this work," said Jay Grunin, a co-founder of the foundation. "It is my audacious hope to create a major cultural hub in New Jersey with this cutting edge academy and the theater on the OCC campus."
"The new building will allow for increased enrollment and provide a unique educational experience for our students," Vicari said. "We are very appreciative for this partnership and the cooperation we have received. We look forward to the day when the work is complete and students can take advantage of this great educational experience."
While a completion date has not been set, a 2019 opening is anticipated.