TOMS RIVER - For the next five years, the health and well-being of students in New Jersey's largest suburban school district will have the support of New Jersey's largest health care network.

Pine Belt Arena (Toms River School District)

A five-year, $637,000 agreement designates RWJBarnabas Health as the district's official health care partner, and awards it branding rights for the 3,200-seat Pine Belt Arena. It takes effect January 1.

RWJBarnabas is no stranger to the shore. Barnabas operations include Community Medical Center and Barnabas Behavioral Health Center in Toms River, Monmouth Medical Center and Unterberg Children's Hospital in Long Branch, Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood, and outpatient services in Toms River, Whiting, Forked River, Long Branch, West Long Branch, Lakewood, Shrewsbury, Colts Neck, Howell and Oakhurst. Among New Brunswick-based RWJ's holdings are Children's Specialized Outpatient Centers in Toms River and Egg Harbor Township.

Seeds for the partnership were planted in the past several years, with involvement by RWJBarnabas in the district's annual Jersey Shore Makerfest. Officials of the hospital chain say that they plan to increase their involvement in it, and to raise their visibility at special events in the arena.

In prepared comments, Schools Superintendent David Healy acknowledged the agreement's monetary value for the district's financial stability, but stressed that it goes beyond the branding on the arena.

"This is more of a partnership than a sponsorship, and what we're most excited about is to work side-by-side with RWJBarnabas Health in a way that directly and positively impacts our students. Everything from student internships to wellness education to athletic protocol is being discussed, and we couldn't be more thrilled," Healy said.

Employees of the health care chain will be expected to help refine health-based curriculum, and to have a marked impact on the STEAM Academy School of Biomedicine, providing students with firm foundations for careers in medical fields.

The arena's new identifier is expected to be introduced in the beginning of 2018. Officials said that a temporary banner is to be hung throughout winter events, including WOBM's Christmas Classic scholastic basketball tournament.

Amy Mansue, President of RWJBaranabas Health's Southern Region, predicted that the partnership will open opportunities for wellness education that extend beyond the classrooms.

"This will allow both of our organizations to leverage resources to serve the students and their families. We look forward to investing in health education and overall community wellness," she said.

School and hospital officials also said that they plan to develop student pathways to emergency preparatoin, sustainability, and cyber security, plus grants and wellness programs incuding health screenings, blood drives, athletics, and nutrition.

Board of Education President Ben Giovine added that the agreement illustrates the district's commitment to developing revenue and cost-cutting streams that lessen the onus on taxpayers.

"In the past year alone, our board has backed successful efforts to join the Energy Savings Improvement Program...to self-fund over $17 million in energy projects, bring our district corporate offices to full capacity and, now, secure a long-term partnership and naming rights for one of the premier facilities in Ocean County for the next half decade. This is truly something worth celebrating." Giovine said.

More from the Shore:

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Enter your email address below