Jamesburg students will remain at Monroe H.S.

Freehold Regional declines request to accept student from Middlesex County town

Students of high school age who live in Jamesburg, Middlesex County, will not be attending school in the Freehold Regional High School District.

At the same time FRHSD administrators determined it would not be in the best interest of the district to accept the Jamesburg students on a tuition basis, officials in the Jamesburg K-8 School District decided to remain in a relationship with the Monroe Township School District that permits high school-age students who live in Jamesburg to continue attending Monroe Township High School.

Jamesburg and Monroe Township are neighboring municipalities in Middlesex County. Monroe Township borders Manalapan.

In the past few months, school administrators in Jamesburg considered ending their long-term relationship with Monroe Township because the cost of sending a Jamesburg resident to Monroe Township High School now exceeds $19,000 per year.

Jamesburg school administrators reached out to other school districts in an attempt to determine if the borough’s students could attend high school elsewhere.

Administrators in the FRHSD agreed to consider the possibility of accepting Jamesburg’s high school students. At the present time, about 225 young people who live in Jamesburg attend Monroe Township High School.

On Oct. 17, FRHSD Superintendent of Schools Charles Sampson said district administrators took a serious look at demographic data provided by Jamesburg. After looking at all aspects of the situation, Sampson said, the FRHSD decided it was not appropriate for the FRHSD to accept the Jamesburg students at this time.

“We have declined that opportunity at this point,” the superintendent said.

As it turned out, so did two other school districts that had agreed to review Jamesburg’s demographic data. That result eventually prompted the Jamesburg Board of Education to commit to keeping the borough’s students at Monroe Township High School.

The Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and the West Windsor- Plainsboro Regional School District joined the Freehold Regional High School District in declining to accept Jamesburg’s students.

Administrators in the South Amboy and Old Bridge school districts asked for more time to make a decision.

The Jamesburg board had set an Oct. 1 deadline for interested districts to respond. The board would have then conducted a feasibility study before choosing a new high school for its students. Instead, Jamesburg will continue the send-receive relationship it has had with Monroe Township since 1979.

However, board members acknowledged there remains no clear way for Jamesburg to afford the increased tuition rates being charged by Monroe Township.

“We don’t know how we’ll pay for it, but our students are going to Monroe,” board President Darren Larsen said.

The increased tuition, partially the result ofMonroe Township incorporating the debt service for the construction of its new high school, prompted Jamesburg school officials to begin seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Jamesburg is paying $19,100 for each high school student sent to Monroe Township this school year. That amount includes $3,000 in debt service.

Larsen said the next step is to begin discussions with Monroe Township school officials.

“The talks with Monroe are to negotiate to see if they could waive the debt service or if we could come up with some other way to relieve that burden to us,” he said. “It’s an amicable relationship we have with Monroe, and we are trying to work things out with them.”

Parents who attended the recent Jamesburg school board meeting were happy at the prospect of continuing the send-receive relationship that has existed for more than 30 years, though many were concerned about funding.

“Now there’s going to be a bill for that this coming year. Have we come up with a thought of how to pay that yet, or is that now going to roll down as of tonight?” asked resident Rick Reynolds.

Paul Gentile, co-founder of the Citizens of Jamesburg and Monroe United committee, said the board should seek the support of parents.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place. We can’t leave and we can’t afford to stay,” Gentile said. “I hope you realize as a board that we are willing to help you fight to find the funds to pay for our kids. I think it’s good news for us to say we are still with Monroe. That’s what we wanted from the beginning. Monroe is a great school district and we are proud of what’s going on there.”