Deptford Township School District dispute over vocational student transport drags on into 2022-23 school year

A dispute that began in January when the Deptford Township School District said it would no longer provide transportation and tuition for its students to attend a county vocational program will carry over into the 2022-2023 school year. .

After the District of South Jersey appealed the state Department of Education’s February decision to an administrative judge, a court date has yet to be set. expected, according to an Aug. 5 letter from Acting Gloucester County Executive Superintendent Ave Altersitz.

In the meantime, Altersitz told the district the decision has been made and Deptford will be responsible for providing and paying for transportation for some freshmen to attend the Gloucester County Institute of Technology.

READ MORE: South Jersey School District announces it will stop paying transportation and tuition for its county vocational school

In the letter obtained by The Inquirer, Altersitz asked Deptford Superintendent Arthur Dietz to inform the parents of students enrolled in four vocational programs that they would be allowed to attend the vocational school.

It was unclear if the same letter was sent to parents or if bus passes were provided. Dietz and Salvatore Randalzzo, a spokesperson for the district, did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Gloucester County Institute of Technology school principal Michael C. Dicken declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal battle. He previously said the county vocational school sent letters of acceptance to around 425 eighth graders in Deptford and area and hoped the dispute could be resolved.

“GCIT remains committed to continuing our normal procedures regarding application and acceptance into our programs,” Dicken said in a statement. “We also remain committed to ensuring that the rights of our students and their families are protected.

The case has been closely followed by the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools. More than 35,000 students are enrolled in 21 county vocational and technical school districts across the state.

The disagreement began when Deptford District said it would no longer cover the costs of incoming freshmen planning to take any of the four courses offered at vocational school which were also offered at Deptford High School. Deptford said a state law requiring it to cover costs does not apply if the district offers similar programs.

Altersitz found that although Deptford offers programs with the same teaching classification, the district does not have a vocational school and is therefore responsible for transport and tuition fees, he said.

Even with that decision, the district said it has no plans to rescind its January letter to parents informing them it wouldn’t pay. This caused some angst among parents of freshmen who had to decide last spring whether they would enter the county’s vocational program, also known as the Gloucester County Technical and Vocational School District.

READ MORE: South Jersey school district still refusing to pay tuition for some vocational students, even after state letter

Deptford maintained that it offers the same courses as at the institute – biomedical and nursing/allied health, engineering, computing and carpentry. State and vocation officials believe Deptford misinterpreted state regulations.

Around 20 per cent of pupils in Deptford leave the district for vocational school, where around 1,500 pupils, including 18 others county districts, attend a sprawling complex. Deptford said it spends about $649,485 on tuition for about 255 students and an additional $100,000 a year on transportation.

Dietz, Deptford’s superintendent, said the district will continue to support students currently enrolled in the county’s program until they graduate. Students enrolled in programs not offered at Deptford High will also not be affected, he said, unless the district creates the same program.

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