Lakewood, NJ – District officials acknowledged Wednesday they have yet to order all the textbooks that nonpublic school students are missing.
During an emergency meeting of the Lakewood Board of Education on Wednesday on why thousands of nonpublic school students began the school year without all their textbooks, Business Administrator Thomas D’Ambola said he was told that as of Tuesday, 20 percent of the books had yet to be ordered.
Board President Issac Zlatkin, who called for the meeting, said a district official told him that as of last Friday – only a couple of days before the start of the school year – as much as 70 percent of the books had yet to be ordered.
“I believe it’s an outrage,” said Zlatkin, who also questioned why thousands of children in private schools do not have access to nurses or special education teachers because the adults in town have yet to reach an agreement.
According to the state Nonpublic School Textbook Law, school districts are required to buy and “loan” textbooks to private schools that are located within its boundaries. Districts are reimbursed by the state for the cost depending on their state aid allotment.
According to the written guidelines for administering the law, the parents or guardians of each nonpublic school student are required to provide the district with a written request for books by May 1.
Districts then have until June 30 to buy the books from publishers, according to the guidelines.
Lakewood’s nonpublic schools did not provide the district even one written request by the May deadline, Superintendent Laura Winters said.
Meanwhile, an attempt by Lakewood to play by the rules when it comes to providing funding for nursing and special education services in the township’s nonpublic schools also left many students without the services this week.
The vendors who hire the nurses and the special education teachers received proposed contracts on Tuesday and Wednesday and are reviewing them, said Marc Zitomer, the board’s attorney. He believes either letters of intent or the actual proposed contracts should be sufficient to allow the nurses and teachers to begin working in the coming days as their employers review the documents.
“They didn’t want to start the services with nothing in hand,” Zitomer said. “They have something in hand now.”
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