Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members:
Because we are a 9-12 grade regional high school district covering 180 square miles, many times parents who have elementary school aged children may not be paying close attention to what is happening at the high school district. Moreover, we have families that move into one of our twelve communities because of the quality of our schools, but they may not be fully informed as to the history of events at a school district.
Case in point – recently the question has been raised as to why North Hunterdon High School has a turf field and Voorhees High School does not. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation and rumors about the turf project at North Hunterdon High School, so let me clarify. The artificial turf on the football field at North Hunterdon High School was donated to the high school and paid for 100% by the North Hunterdon Community Turf Committee,a community based non-profit organization created solely to raise enough funds to pay for and install a turf field at the high school. Not one cent of district funds was used for the turf field. The turf committee did a substantial amount of fundraising, but also secured a local, resident excavator who donated his time and machinery at no cost. The Board of Education accepted the donation from the NH Community Turf Committee and the artificial turf field was installed in 2005. Without the efforts of the NH Community Turf Committee, I’m certain that North Hunterdon High School would not have a turf field even today given past failed budgets and new restrictions on increases to the local tax levy.
Another point of clarification relates to funds set aside to replace the North Hunterdon turf field. Once the turf field was installed at North Hunterdon High School, it became a part of the district’s property and the Board of Education is tasked with maintaining the district’s property and facilities. To that end, the Board has been proactive in putting money aside, a little at a time, into a maintenance reserve account for when the turf field needs to be replaced. Please note that the installation of a turf field is NOT a maintenance project; therefore the funds we have in the maintenance reserve account cannot be used to install a turf field at Voorhees. The installation of a turf field is a capital project, one which our architects have estimated at $1.28 million for Voorhees High School.
In 2010, the Voorhees Community Athletic Foundation was established to specifically raise money for a turf field at Voorhees High School, however, we have not been made aware of their progress for almost three years. Our Board of Education will gladly accept a donation of a turf field for Voorhees High School as it did for North Hunterdon High School. Parents of Voorhees student-athletes have said it’s unfair that North has turf and Voorhees does not. If you were a school board member, would you really say no to a $1 million free-of-charge turf field because it was only for one school? I don’t think so.
I also want to respond to the public statements made at a recent Board of Education meeting that the athletic fields at Voorhees are unsafe. This is simply not true. Prior to all contests, game officials from the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) walk the fields and inspect the conditions. They have never told us that the fields were unsafe. The problem is not that Voorhees lacks a turf field; it’s that Voorhees does not have enough athletic fields on campus to accommodate all of the sports we offer, and the fields we have are overused. Consequently, practices and certain athletic games are played at other venues in the area. We have put in place a comprehensive field maintenance program that includes semi-annual seeding, semi-annual aeration, semi-annual soil testing, and fertilization four times a year. We do as much as we can in between sports seasons, but it is rare when the fields are not being used. This district attempted to purchase additional land for Voorhees back in 1988, but the referendum was voted down by the majority of taxpayers; hence our current situation of overused fields.
In closing, I want to stress that we would never have our student-athletes play on a field that was not safe. We are continuing to update and maintain all facilities and athletic fields throughout the high school district as needed. In fact, we have almost $9 million of much needed capital improvement projects for both high schools that have been deemed eligible for 40% grant funding from the state and these projects will be completed within the next two to three years. These capital projects are the current priority.
Charles M. Shaddow, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District