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Bloomsbury Board of Ed opts not to pull students from Phillipsburg High

By Kevin Lechiski, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 26 2012 10:40:55 PM CST

What just may be the hottest hot-button topic in the history of the Bloomsbury School District has been taken off the table.

The Bloomsbury Board of Education on Monday night decided not to move ahead with a proposal to end its more than 100-year-old relationship with Phillipsburg High School. A proposal had been on the table by the Bloomsbury board to stop sending borough students to Phillipsburg and start sending them to Delaware Valley Regional High School.

The board decided not to consider the proposal after 69 percent of the respondents of a survey sent to registered voters favored staying with Phillipsburg High School.

Board of Education President Marianne Treanor said the board’s decision was “based on the survey results.”

For years, the Bloomsbury board has paid tuition for borough students to head just across the Hunterdon County border to the Warren County school. The board would have had to spend more money for student tuition and transportation to the farther away Delaware Valley Regional High School in west-central Hunterdon County.

Officials said the board earlier this year decided to pursue a possible switch after many years of requests from various residents and school board members.

Board Attorney Paul Barger said the survey was sent to all 516 registered voters in the Bloomsbury district. Of these, there were 284 legitimately returned, he said, noting that 35 surveys were discounted due to discrepancies such as a handful of surveys not being from actual registered voters and, in apparent jokes, several surveys being signed by “fictional characters like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.”

Those who have argued in favor of a switch to Delaware Valley Regional say the higher tuition and transportation costs are warranted since students will receive a better overall education. Those opposing the switch say the two high schools are comparable enough to not warrant spending more on tuition and transportation.

The Bloomsbury board during the 2011-12 school year paid $551,000 in tuition and transportation costs to Phillipsburg for 41 students.

It is projected that tuition and transportation to Delaware Valley combined would cost about $70,000 more, according to a consultant study completed for the Bloomsbury board by the Southern Regional Institute & Education Technology Center at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. The complete study, dated June 2012, can be accessed online at www.bburyes.com/pdfs/Final%20Bloomsbury%20Feasibility%20Study.pdf.

If Bloomsbury had decided to move ahead with the switch to Delaware Valley, borough students currently attending Phillipsburg High School would not have been required to transfer.

The consultant study completed in June had originally weighed North Hunterdon and Voorhees high schools as other options before the Bloomsbury board narrowed the final two choices to Phillipsburg and Delaware Valley. North Hunterdon and Voorhees would have had substantially higher tuition and transportation costs, the study said.

According to the consultant study, “While not identical, educational programs at Phillipsburg High School, North Hunterdon High School, Voorhees High School and Delaware Valley Regional High School are comprehensive and comparable.” The study also noted that each of these districts offers “comparable opportunities in student services, special education, interscholastic athletics and student activities.”

The study did state that a switch to from Phillipsburg to one of the three other high schools considered would provide Bloomsbury student with “enhanced school environment opportunities in areas such as: state assessment results/student performance indicators, higher graduation rate, and lower dropout rate.”

If Bloomsbury had decided to pull the plug on its relationship with Phillipsburg High School, it would “not have a significant financial impact on Phillipsburg taxpayers,” according to the study.

While a complete switch to Delaware Valley is now off the table, Bloomsbury officials did say they could consider another option to give parents the choice of whether to send their children to Phillipsburg or Delaware Valley high schools.

A second question in the community survey had asked residents if parents should have the choice to send their children to either district. Of the respondents, 150 said yes and 87 said no.

In response to a resident questioning the board on the possibility of creating a dual sending district, Barger said the board would have to first find out if such a practice is allowable by the state Department of Education. If so, he said the board would then have to conduct cost analyses followed by a presentation to the public.