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Township of Winslow v. Board of Education

Decided: January 9, 1970.


Conford, Collester and Kolovsky. The opinion of the court was delivered by Conford, P.J.A.D.


[108 NJSuper Page 216] For several years prior to 1968 the Camden Board of Education conducted a summer "day-camp" program for selected categories of school children, more fully discussed infra , in a county-park area in Berlin. During that period it was also engaged in plans to acquire a 70-acre tract, inclusive of a lake, in the Township of Winslow, for the permanent site of a somewhat expanded camp program. It did acquire the property, with the aid of federal funds, and had effected an outlay of about $200,000 for land and improvements when the consummation of the plan to change the site from Berlin to Winslow was blocked by the institution

of this declaratory judgment action by Winslow ("township" hereinafter).

The Law Division held the acquisition of the land by the Camden Board of Education ("board", hereinafter) illegal; enjoined its use for the aforestated purpose; directed divestiture of title, and adjudged that in the meantime the property was to be held subject to all ordinances of the township as though owned by a private corporation and that it was taxable real estate from the date of acquisition. The board appeals.

The core holding of the trial court was that the board had acquired the land "for school purposes," contrary to N.J.S.A. 18:7-74, which restricts the extraterritorial location of lands acquired for such purposes to the "municipalities adjoining the school district."*fn1 Winslow does not adjoin Camden. The corresponding revised statutory section is now N.J.S.A. 18A:20-4.2. The board's position was that the acquisition was legally supported by N.J.S.A. 18:5-43, which authorized establishment of, and acquisition of land in or out of the municipality without restriction for "public playgrounds and recreation places." The current revised reference is N.J.S.A. 18A:20-17.

The board on this appeal for the first time raises a question as to the township's standing to challenge this project, but we think the general public interest requires reaching the meritorious question adjudicated below. We find the project a valid one and the acquisition of the land in Winslow therefor to have the statutory sanction cited above for establishment of "public * * * recreation places."

Much of the attack on the project and the rationale of the trial court was based on the language of certain formal documents executed for and on behalf of the board in connection with applications for federal funds available under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, P.L. 89-10.

ยง 205(a)(1) specifies the permitted purposes of such grants as

The board's applications for federal funds recite that it will use the funds only for the purposes provided in the act. The board purported to intend to use the Winslow site for an "Outdoor Educational Program," under which 750 selected students would be transported daily to the site during the summer for lectures, arts and crafts, nature and science instruction, musical activities and physical education and development. Children would be selected for the program on the basis of their "educational disadvantage."

As against the emphasis on "educational" reflected by the foregoing representations, the testimony of the Camden superintendent of schools and of the local director of the project for the board bore more pointedly on the recreational aspect of the program and the breadth of its availability to all disadvantaged children. While, at Berlin, only public school children from grades 1 to 6 were included in the program, the board contemplated that in the future it might extend to pre-school age and parochial school children falling within the disadvantaged category.

As operated heretofore, the children selected for the program had a period of special remedial classroom instruction in Camden in the morning and were then transported in buses to the campsite. Attendance in the camp program was optional on the part of any child selected. At the campsite lunch was provided and out-of-door activities conducted, such as "swimming, hiking, nature study, arts and crafts, singing, * * * dancing * * * when it fits with music," and various kinds of ...

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