Board of Ed looks at budget, security officers, and embracing a diverse population

The Hopewell Valley school district saw an unanticipated increase of $500,000 in its bus contract for next year, after a rocky year of driver shortages and steep increases in gas prices. 

The purchase contract went from $1.3 million for the 2021-22 school year to $1.8 million for the next one, Board Member Bill Herbert said at a monthly meeting on Monday. The District has $4 million in capital reserves and will assess whether it will need additional resources for the 2023-24 budget later this year.

The District is also conducting an assessment to better project how many people will be in the District in the coming years and whether current facilities and configurations need to be adjusted as a result.

During the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece also said that the Board would not discuss safety issues or the possibility of arming campus security officers over the summer, a topic that had been previously raised in a District email. 

“We will have a larger meeting about our security in October,” she said. “We will not make this decision without having a larger forum. This is a community decision.”

Reba Holley, who is the Mercer County lead for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, addressed the Board during public comments and said there is no evidence that arming officers will reduce violence in schools or make schools safer.

“I just feel like we need to step back,” she said. “School shootings get a lot of news, but they are less than 1% of gun violence in America.”

The Board did increase campus security officer personnel, moving the part-time officer assigned to the Board of Education to a full-time position. This officer helps fill security needs across the District at after-school events and when there are personnel shortages. 

Another issue raised during the public comment period was the reading of a book, “I am Jazz,” about a transgender child, to students in classrooms at Toll Gate Elementary. Sylvia Kocses of Pennington, who has grandchildren who attend the school, said teachers should have warned families and given them the option to opt out of the reading.

Treece clarified that while parents will be notified and given the option to opt out of sex education in the District, discussions about diversity and inclusion are a part of the curriculum.

“There will be read-alouds about transgender children, because there are transgender children sitting in our classrooms,” she said. “Our books reflect those members of those communities, as well as all the other ways that we show up in the world. That is something we embrace here in Hopewell. I believe our community supports it, and I hope that we can keep growing together.”

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