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Concern over possible plan to close Lambertville school continues


A Lambertville, N.J., task force, Save Lambertville Public School (Save LPS), continues to be concerned that school district officials could be planning to close the school in an effort to build a new facility on the South Hunterdon Regional High School campus in West Amwell, N.J.

“There have been no decisions regarding the future of our school buildings,” South Hunterdon Regional School District Superintendent Louis Muenker said in response to accusations that the school board has plans to further consolidate its elementary schools.

The task force’s mission is to keep Lambertville’s elementary school within the city limits. The municipality officially sanctioned the task force in 2017 after a number of parents expressed concerns that a majority of South Hunterdon Regional School District Board of Education (BOE) members were favoring closing and moving the North Main Street school.

“It’s never been a part of the plan,” Muenker said although he admits the topic is “an emotional conversation.”

The BOE commissioned an “extensive” study of its assets by McKissick Associates of Harrisburg several years ago to help determine how it should manage its buildings in the future, Muenker said.

Representatives from Save LPS say the study has “a lot of gaps and holes” in it and that “due diligence” has not been done.

Muenker disagreed with that assessment, stating that the board recently formed an Ad Hoc Facility committee to address the concerns associated with the elementary school buildings.

Task force member Mark Donlon said he thinks the task force has forced the board into “pumping the brakes on it a little,” as they have returned to the study phase and have formed the ad-hoc committee to continue to evaluate how to manage its infrastructure.

Muenker added that the board has also reached out to the mayors of Lambertville, West Amwell and Stockton because the school board believes their input is “extremely important.”

Task force representatives say there has been no money for any improvements to the school beyond “routine maintenance.” Howe characterized the situation “like a landlord letting a building fall into disrepair” until the building becomes unusable, creating the need for a newer facility.

“Essentially, it’s a sit and wait game,” Save LPS member Roni Todd-Marino said. Parents and residents have already seen the board close Stockton Elementary School last year, although Lambertville Public School has a bigger footprint in the district.

Muenker said anyone interested in discussing what might become of the school can attend a board meeting where their concerns can be addressed directly.

For any major expenditure, the BOE would have to pass a referendum in the three municipalities it serves: Lambertville, Stockton and West Amwell.

“Any recommended major project associated with our school buildings will require a referendum approval by the community,” Muenker said.

He added that the building is more than 50 years old and is in a location that would not be easy for major renovations to take place. He said any work could not be completed over school recess, which would likely result in displacement of students. That problem would need to be solved, he said.

Save LPS chair Lorie Howe said the school is important for the city, as it is accessible for the community’s families and strengthens property values. She said the task force is open to building a new school, as long as it’s in Lambertville.

“As a task force in the municipality, we have 100 percent confidence in our mayor’s support,” Howe said later in the week about Lambertville Mayor Julia Fahl. “We are happy she is engaged and very hopeful that now that she is, we’ll be able to move forward.”