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Montvale, Woodcliff Lake Seeking to Withdraw from Regional High School District

Officials met Tuesday to discuss the process which will decide whether or not the district is split.

Officials began the process which may end in the Pascack Valley Regional High School District being broken up.

Woodcliff Lake and Montvale officials both passed resolutions earlier this year  to withdraw from the regional high school district, which also includes Hillsdale and River Vale students. Executive County Superintendent Robert Gilmartin met on Tuesday with representatives from the district, as well as the four towns and four K-8 districts it serves to discuss the process for determining whether or not the two towns will be able to withdraw.

A 2009 feasibility study found that a change in the way regional school districts are funded "has forced Montvale and Woodcliff Lake to subsidize the education of the high school students from Hillsdale and River Vale." Gilmartin told Patch he is requiring the towns to update their study.

Gilmartin said the dissolution of regional districts tends to be related to finances, rather than quality of education.

"It typically revolves around the share of the tax burden to support the regional district," Gilmartin said.

Hillsdale and River Vale have also hired a firm to create their own feasibility study. Gilmartin will use both studies and other information to make a report and recommendation for the state Department of Education's commissioner.

The commissioner and a board of review will then make a decision on whether or not the withdrawal could happen. If they decide it could, residents of the four towns will vote on a referendum to decide whether or not to dissolve the district.

Pascack Valley Superintendent P. Erik Gundersen said the Board of Education, which has members from all the towns involved, is not taking a side in the matter.

"Hopefully we can come to a resolution that is satisfactory to all four towns," Gundersen said. "We're going to keep focusing on providing our kids with an education."

Gilmartin said the quality of education in the district was not a problem.

"Pascack Valley is an excellent, high-performing school district," Gilmartin said. "There are some great things happening for the kids that attend."

If the split does happen, Pascack Hills High School will likely become part of Montvale's existing school district and Woodcliff Lake will send high school students to the same school they have been attending.

Hillsdale and River Vale would likely be left to decide what to do with Pascack Valley High School, which is located in Hillsdale.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Leggate at JMLeggate@gmail.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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