Hunterdon County Merges Schools to Form New K-12 District

By Briana Vannozzi

School may be out for the summer for students but in Hunterdon County the merging of three elementary schools, and their respective districts, begins tomorrow.

West Amwell, Stockton and Lambertville elementary school districts, along with South Hunterdon High School District will dissolve to create a new K-12 South Hunterdon Regional School District.

“There are some efficiencies. Instead of having three Superintendents of Schools there is only one, there is only one business administrator. We are looking forward to having to identifying more efficiencies moving forward,” said Muenker.

It makes sense, according to Superintendent Louis Muenker. All three elementary schools feed to the same middle and high school. The entire district is made up of only about 950 students.

Residents overwhelmingly approved the change by vote when the matter was put to a referendum last September. And cost savings wasn’t the only driving force. For the first time the schools will have an integrated curriculum, which means an even playing field for all the students.

“My hope and I guess my guess as well would be that more districts in New Jersey would look at us as perhaps a model moving forward at how it can be done and how the benefits are,” said Muenker.

It’s not an easy model to replicate. So says Larry Feinsod, the executive director for New Jersey School Boards Association.

“To exactly duplicate somewhere else in the state would be difficult,” said Feinsod.

Feinsod calls it something like a perfect storm.

“The reason why it works there is the fact that the people are extremely interested in quality education, the towns are very similar from a socioeconomic standpoint what we have learned in New Jersey is that when consolidation is discussed very often because of the tax structure there’s a winner and there’s a loser,” Feinsod said.

Not here though.

“It really enhances the best of the three districts,” said Lambertville resident Caren Franzini. “Each district has some things that were probably better than the other and so it’s always better to take the best and combine it into one district.”

Franzini has lived in Lambertville for 26 years and had three kids go through the district.

“From a coordination, from a cost savings from it just makes a lot of sense,” she said.

“Lambertville Public School will still be Lambertville Public School. We’re not looking to change the name or mascots or school colors. All those things are going to retain their history and culture,” Muenker said.

Come fall, the administration assures families it will be business as usual.