STOCKTON — The proposal to combine four South County school districts into a single district got unanimous endorsement from Borough Council on Sept. 9. A referendum on the measure is to be voted on by residents of Stockton,Lambertville and West Amwell Township in a special election on Sept. 24.
The Sept. 24 special election asks voters to decide two questions: to dissolve the existing South Hunterdon Regional School District, and to consolidate the towns’ three elementary school districts into a new regional school district that would serve children in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Stockton Borough Council’s Sept. 9 resolution “encourages voters to consider supporting regionalization by voting ‘Yes’ to both referendum questions…” Passage of both questions is necessary for regionalization to take place. The first question, on dissolving the high school district, will pass if a majority of voters in two of the three communities vote “yes.” However, the new all-inclusive district can only be formed if a majority of voters in each of the three communities vote “yes” on the second question. If either or both questions lack sufficient support to pass, there will be no regionalization and the four districts will continue to operate as they have in the past. According to James Gallagher, president of the Stockton school board, “Local officials believe that regionalization will provide both educational benefits and financial efficiencies.” There are no plans to close existing schools or build new facilities, Gallagher said in an email. Sponsored by the school regionalization committee, school officials will speak about regionalization and answer public questions at three Town Hall meetings ahead of the Sept. 24 vote. One is planned for Monday, Sept. 16, at the Phillip L. Pittore Justice Center (the Acme building) in Lambertville. Two are set for Wednesday, Sept. 18; one at the Stockton Fire Hall in Stockton and another at the West Amwell Township Municipal Building. All meetings are to begin at 7 p.m. At the Stockton Town Hall, former mayor of Princeton Township Chad Goerner, a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit pro-consolidation group Courage to Connect NJ, will speak briefly about last year’s merger of the township and Princeton Borough.