Storms held off long enough Monday for all five members of the Hunterdon County Board of Commissioners, elected officials including State Assembly minority leader John DiMaio, Clinton Township Mayor Brian Mullay, Bethlehem Township Mayor Paul Muir and local business executives including the Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce to celebrate and ceremonially break ground on the new, innovative county Vocational School District (Polytech) campus, just off Regional Road on the south grounds of North Hunterdon High School.
It is a $25 million project, with 75% of the funding from the State of New Jersey through the Securing our Children’s Future Bond Act.
Standing next to the project sketches by Settembrino Architects, Dr. Todd Bonsall, superintendent of the County Vocational School District, announced the project timeline. Expectations are for the new school campus to open in time for academic year 2024-2025.
“This project represents a unique partnership with the North Hunterdon-Voorhees High School District and it is the first of its kind in New Jersey,” he said. “In this collaborative partnership with the Hunterdon County Vocational School District, students will take their CTE (career and technical education) in our new facility, but they will go across the campus to take their academics at North Hunterdon High School. Students will be eligible to attend these programs of study beginning in the ninth grade. Full time career and technical study will allow the students to more than double their learning and experiential time in CTE over the typical shared-time program. In addition, students will have opportunities to earn valuable industry credentials as well as college credits, and/or get a jumpstart on their Department of Labor-endorsed apprenticeship.”
On behalf of both the HCVSD board of education and the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District, Bonsall thanked the Hunterdon County commissioner board and the state legislators for their strong support of the new campus.
Commissioner Board Deputy Director Zach Rich discussed the potential for students who will attend the new Polytech North campus in late 2024 and thereafter.
Rich noted that over the past decade, Hunterdon County has seen steady growth in the programs offered through HCVSD. He said the expanded or new Polytech programs for the North campus will include six disciplines, namely culinary arts and hospitality, welding technology, HVAC/plumbing technology, electrical technology, advanced manufacturing and aeronautical sciences and auto and diesel services.
“As someone who works every day in the building and construction industry, I see firsthand the issues that our county, state and nation face in skilled labor,” he said. “Rather than simply talk about our challenges today, we are making that targeted investment in vocational education that will pay dividends for years to come. We are saying to the parents, guardians and young people across Hunterdon County, ‘you have a future here.’ These new or expanded academic programs are in high demand and they offer strong wages.”
Hunterdon County Director John Lanza discussed the financing of the new Polytech North campus. He explained that with the 75% funding match for the construction of Polytech North by the State of New Jersey, Hunterdon County will be paying its 25% match of the state grant funds without issuing any debt whatsoever.
“Today at this ceremony, we are helping lay the foundation of Hunterdon County’s long-term economic vitality and sustainability,” he said. “My board colleagues and I believe in the value and importance of vocational education, and for far too long Hunterdon County vocational students have spent too much time on the road traveling between campuses. Now thanks to a strong relationship with Dr. Bonsall and members of the Polytech board, North Hunterdon High School, our state legislators and the Township of Clinton, you are delivering the new county vocational education center right here. This unique and highly collaborative model with North Hunterdon High School will enable our county to construct a building at the campus using a 99-year lease for $1, so thank you to the board of education.”
Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Phelan spoke about the Polytech North project representing “an incredible win-win” for both Hunterdon County’s future students who will benefit from premier educational opportunities with the trades that will be offered through Polytech, as well as expanded access for them and area companies to the growing local workforce over the long-term.
Phelan said, “so often, students do wonderful things as they graduate from our local high schools and go off to four-year institutions, but they leave this area.”
“The new campus and Polytech programs will strengthen the future workforce bonds with the business community, especially within trades from HVAC and welding to advanced manufacturing,” he said. “Our local economy here depends on the trades. Having this opportunity with a partnership between the state, Hunterdon County and the Vocational School District leading the charge is going to create great results and add to our economy. We’ll not only focus on the bridging of the trades with our local businesses, but students can have that ability to focus on a career path right from their ninth grade year and know they will have a job ahead of them here. It is a tremendous opportunity for students that only compliments what our local high schools already have.”
Clinton Township Mayor Brian Mullay shared his thoughts on the new Polytech campus along Rt. 31 and at North Hunterdon.
“This project is important for all of Hunterdon County, but especially for Clinton Township and its residents,” he said. “This will enhance the opportunities for students to learn basic trades and technical skills, and highly-valued technical skills they can utilize in the workplace. Not everybody will go to or should go to college, and I think this project will enable a higher quality of learning for those students.”
Read this article as it originally appeared Oct. 19, 2022 in TAPInto Flemington/Raritan.